I love watching family movies with the littles.

It brings the kid out in me. I love to laugh at the goofy things they laugh at and watch their faces light up. It does this father-heart good. Love it!

Today I discovered Denver’s chain of “cheap” theaters and decided it would be fun to take them all out for the evening. We watched Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and loved it…

It was a great follow-up to Pastor Chad’s message today on being thankful in the storms and looking for the miraculous in the aftermath. Alexander says in the arc of the movie, “You gotta have the bad days so you can love the good days even more.”

Now I wouldn’t say that I would necessarily mark the past four years of my family’s life as a storm, but it has felt like a bit of a tidal wave of transition after transition. Lots of big changes for the Shoup’s, including: leaving our church family and ministry role of almost 10 years, Deanna being a full-time medical school student, my adjusting to being a stay-at-home dad, 3 new jobs for me during that span, school and friend transitions for the kids, 4 new homes in 4 years, and family health issues — it’s been quite the journey. And there were times that we definitely all felt the weight of it.

Looking back on it now, though, and seeing where everyone has landed, I can see His hand on us through it all.

And, honestly, now that we are done with major transitions for a while — for the foreseeable future — these past few months have been a breath of fresh air. I noticed that today… and I’ve been noticing this all month through NorthRock’s “hashtag your thankfulness” campaign. I’ve hardly been able to keep up with giving thanks…

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Today alone, let me list just some of the things that I’m #NorthRockThankful for…

  • I love our NorthRock Church family. I technically had the weekend off but couldn’t resist attending this morning.
  • I’m thankful for Pastor Chad, who is obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This series is really hitting a nerve.
  • I’m thankful that my tweenage daughter still looks up to me, likes to have conversations with me, and still appreciates hugs and shoulder pats.
  • I’m thankful for cheap tickets to the movies.
  • I’m thankful that my two littlest love to cuddle.
  • I’m thankful for our new community in Erie. We really love it.

So anyhow, if you feel like you’re in the thick of it right now. Hold on. Ride the storm. It’ll get better. And when you come out on the other side you can love the good days even more.

I love my job(s)!

I was asked to give a district camp update this weekend so I put together this short video opener.

And these are the numbers SO FAR… we’ve still got a couple more camps and one camp that has yet to report. God is good!

Nothing is better than seeing the next generation lost in worship, hearing God’s voice, grabbing a hold of who they were created to be and seeing them step out in that calling.

#ROOTED

Cynthia is our artistic and out-of-the-box shining star. She has always been very creative and has a passion to bring others to Jesus. Love you, Cyncha. Go with God and you will go far!

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This girl… she is a mother to our kids in the most amazing display of love I have ever experienced.

Autumn, our eldest daughter, wrote this on her Facebook wall today…

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Thanks, Autumn. You said it all very well.

This evening, as I finally got around to editing video from the girls’ trip down to Colorado on Easter weekend — I can remember when I used to edit these family videos the day they happened… what happened to all my time? – I couldn’t help but smiling ear-to-ear. I know my beautiful family comes from the outflow of their mother’s faithful and unending love for them. Deanna’s amazing…

Deanna makes me more confident as a parent. She teaches me constantly how to better love when my patience grows thin. And she’s thick-skinned when our kiddos need some tough love. I’m blessed. Our kids are blessed.

And then there’s my Mom. I’ve always thought this picture was fun…

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That’s me and my brother Bryan towering over her on a trip we took out to the east coast in 2008.

My mother’s faith and tough love is the reason I have an unwavering faith of my own today. She taught me that “to love God and love others” is above all else. This life isn’t mine. It’s His. And anytime I want to live selfishly for my own desires and wants, I look at her example and know that she’s right. I have a rock and a sure foundation in Christ because she led me in my faith walk.

Her grace and humility has shaped me into the father that I am today. I can remember a couple of times that I made her cry because of some stupid decisions I made as a teenager. When I saw her tears, I never wanted to hurt her again. One time especially, when I was caught in a pretty epic failure, I expected major chastisement when I returned home. But instead, she greeted me with a hug, loads of grace, and lots of love. And about a month’s worth of being grounded. :)

Her devotion is unmatchable. For years I can remember both Mom and Dad getting up an hour early to pray before their days. Not because I was awake to see it, but because I knew. I knew because Mom would tell me constantly that she was praying for God’s favor in my life, that I would find good relationships, and that I would prosper in everything I endeavored. I can see the fruit of those prayers to this day. And now she’s praying the same for my kids.

She has unwaveringly believed in me. Mom (and Dad) sowed so much into me as a musician and, later on in life, as someone pursuing ministry as a life-calling. I got my first keyboard when I was in grade school. My first professional gear when I was in junior high. And they drove me to every Christian rock concert within a two-state radius. We rocked out together A LOT! And then, when I started doing concerts in my early teens, they followed me everywhere with a camcorder and recorded hours upon hours on home videos of my shows. Many of you were subjected to watching those. And I’m sorry. Haha!

She’s loved my kids as her own. I don’t think I fully realized how much of a treasure Mom is until I’ve been able to see her love my own kids. It like seeing her caring for me all over again from a new and overwhelmingly grateful perspective as the parent and father that I now am. She doesn’t hold back. She has taught me how to give and live selflessly by her example.

But words are not enough for either of them. And I’m deeply thankful for the gifts that both Deanna and Mom have been to me and to my kids. All my love. Happy Mother’s Day.

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I had a big dream — maybe even a goal in life, you might say — that became a reality this week! I’ve been dreaming and pushing towards it for THIRTEEN YEARS…

I entered into the Foursquare family as a youth pastor at a local church in April of 2001. It was then that I started to notice that there really wasn’t much happening on a broad scale level to network, resource, disciple and care for NextGen leaders. At least in the way that I was hoping for — accessible and easy to share. I was a bit jealous of some of the care and support I was seeing happening in other denominations and wanted the same — selfishly, for myself, and also for our leaders.

It began with phone calls. I started asking questions. I worked my way up all the way to our national NextGen Rep of the time, who I highly respect to this day. I was immediately put on a national team to brainstorm and give vision to our movement’s calling to disciple and reach the next generation. It was there that the conversation started about launching a web site to give access to resources and tools to equip NextGen leaders.

I’ve been giving voice to this idea in some capacity since that time but it wasn’t until I stepped into the role of the Gateway NextGen Rep in the fall of 2010 that I was able to really do something about it. One of the first things I did in my new role was to establish GatewayNextGen.com as a place for NextGen leaders in our district to go to for networking, resourcing, training and encouragement. It was a big hit! Many days averaging as many as 100 unique visitors a day and on it’s biggest days, attracting more than 2,000. As I write this, my team of NextGen contributors has published 883 posts, we’ve had 330 comments/interactions and we’ve had 14,800 hits since launch — still averaging around 116 unique visits a day according to the latest stats. Pretty awesome for a start-up site. It was obvious that the site was reaching a need for NextGen leaders.

A couple years ago, conversations started churning again on a national level about doing something more for NextGen leaders. The web site idea was approached again and this time I was able to say, “Take a look at this… Look at the hits and engagement we’re getting in a district of just ~140 churches.” The idea was passionately embraced by our team and the rest, as they say, is history.

There have been countless man-hours put into this project from the beginning, including a graphics and logo redesign, importing and tagging posts, and retagging as we refined and shaped categories and streamlined the search system to make it as user friendly as feasible. It was just a very long process, and sometimes very tedious process, to get all the content and the site itself up to the standards we were hoping for — a very good thing, to be sure.

I’m very thankful for Tammy Dunahoo, our general supervisor, and Ryan Brown, our national NextGen representative for supporting this thing from the very beginning. They are champions for the NextGen movement in Foursquare! And they are, simply put, awesome.

It was Tuesday night… I got the email. It simply said, “You are good to go! Tammy signed off.”

I cried happy tears.

I can’t wait to see how God uses this! I think it’s gonna make a big difference in a lot of leader’s lives. I think it’s going to encourage and equip our leaders in a new and exciting way. I think it’s gonna be an amazing tool to help us touch and reach a generation for Christ. And I believe it will be an amazing resource to share NextGen leader’s stories and give inspiration and hope to a group of leaders that largely feel alone in facing a seemingly larger-than-life task.

I honestly couldn’t be more humbled.

God is good. I’m tearing up again…

Many, many thanks to all my friends, peers and family who helped this dream become realized.

If you want to tinker around on the site before any big official announcements are made, you can find it live now at FoursquareNextGen.org.