8 things I have found out by the time I turn 23

Tomorrow is my 23rd birthday. As I reflect on 23 years of life, I have realized a few things. Like how to iron a shirt, pay bills, and graduate from college. But those aren’t the most important things that I have learned in my life. As I hit the iconic birthday, I know what you are thinking “23 iconic?” But for me 23 is a huge birthday because it is a number that has been worn by two of my sports heroes and are retired in the beloved city of Chicago. Those two heroes, Michael Jordan and Ryne Sandberg wore 23. So these are a list of the things that I have learned in my 23 years of life.

1. LOVE PEOPLE

Love people. Yes that sounds hard. But it really is not that tough. We as people, in a world that is full of hurt and pain, have to be people that love big. We have to love people in the most ways possible. You may be asking Thad what does that look like? I will tell you. That means be kind. Give people compliments often. Don’t hold back on giving people compliments. Its not like there is a winner or loser for compliments. People win when you give them compliments. Give people more hugs. Let people know how much you value them. Give them a gift. Write them a letter. Make them feel appreciated and like they are worth an infinite amount of money. Show them they mean something to you by showing up to their events and being present *I’ll hit on this later. There are whole books on this. Bob Goff has a great on called Love Does. (Best book I have ever read). But in all seriousness love people and don’t just do it half way. Love people with everything that you have.

2. Be Intentional

In a world that is so full of being connected via social media and with your phone. We have lost the ability to be able to connect to people face to face. Going along with loving people, you cannot love people if you do not connect with the people that are in front of your face. It is hard to love people from afar and not be involved in their life. So let’s hang up the phone/put it away when you are with people. and HANG OUT with the people that are with you. Ask the tough questions that will strengthen your relationship with that person. If you ask shallow questions you will have a shallow relationship. So be intentional with your friends. Go to things that they are in. I.E. shows, sporting events, concerts, and anything else that you can show up to without looking strange. When you are with them, be with them. The people on the phone/social media can wait. There are real life people in front of you so be intentional and use your time to love them well.

3. Be Passionate

I think this is one of the most important thing you can be. If you are not passionate about what you are doing then why are you doing it? Do things that you wake up in the morning and want to do. If you have passion for what you are doing then you will most likely do it better. But be careful when you have passion that you are sensitive to other people. They are not all as passionate as you are about whatever it is that you are passionate about. That is okay they are allowed to think differently than you because they are a different human being than you. But be passionate about things. Don’t just go through life living without any fire for what you are doing.

4. Live in Community

Have some friends! Seriously do not be a hermit. You cannot live and be a lone wolf, lone ranger, or anything else that you could imagine being the lone one of. I tried to do it and was extremely unsuccessful. For 5 months in Memphis I really did not have too many friends and my morale suffered. But in the past month I have found friends and it has been the most rewarding thing. But have friends. Invite them over to hang out. Go to dinner. Do life with other people. If it worked in the Bible than it can work today. Reminder, you are not a lone wolf. You are a person that needs people in your life to encourage, challenge, love, and laugh with you.

5. Travel

This is one that you all that know me would go “Why isn’t this one higher up on the list?” Yes I travel a lot. But go see your friends where they live. You usually will have a free place to stay if you stay with a friend. But go and see things before you settle down. Go places. See things that you have never seen. Road trip with friends. Sleep on a couch. Travelling for a weekend is so fun. So while you have the time and resources, travel! It will be worth it. You can see wonderful things if you drive. My rule is if it is in 10 hours I can drive there. So set an hour limit for driving and go! You can experience some wonderful things. I promise.

6. Stay grounded

Don’t get too high on yourself. No one likes a person who has their nose too high in the air. People don’t always want to talk about you and what you are doing. Stay rooted and don’t let yourself get filled with pride when you accomplish something. Be proud of yourself but don’t be conceited in thinking that because you accomplished something that you are too good for anyone. Stay humble. People are attracted to people who accomplish great things but are also humble enough to be viewed as a normal human being. Garth Brooks is a great example of this. Now if you do not know, I grew up with Garth’s daughters. Garth was a normal guy and you would have never known that he had sold out arenas all over the world by how he acted. He was so humble in his actions and I am grateful that he did not portray himself as better than anyone around him.

7. Most Things are not Eternal

You might be at this point of the post going Thad has said nothing spiritual at all. Well here we go. I was told my freshman year of college that grades, when my grades were not doing too hot, were not eternal. That has had a profound effect on me. While in Colossians 3:17 it says “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” So I am not saying that you should not work hard at school because while you are in school that is one way to glorify God. But grades and most things on this earth are not eternal. They are going to pass away. Jobs, clothes, cars, houses, and any other material thing will fade away. Let’s not stress about things of this world that will not matter at the end of your life. So let’s build people up and encourage them. People are not eternal either but they are what is going to there at the end of your life rather than all of your stuff. How you are with people will determine how your legacy is left. So invest in things that are eternal. Like leading others to Christ, loving people well, and serving the world with all that you have.

8. BE/LOVE YOURSELF

This is something that I want to stress more than anything. Be who you are. Be the person that you were made to be. Yes, that means have your own style. Yes, that means listen to whatever music you want. Be you. I say that because there are too many people trying to be someone who they aren’t. So I ask you, why are you trying to be someone who you are not? Love yourself. Love who you were made to be. From loving yourself there comes a confidence that cannot be shaken. I challenge you to be yourself. Sure people will talk and try to discourage you from being you. But don’t let that talk deter you from being the person who you are.

Thad Ernst

 

A Thanksgiving, Years in the Making

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have been looking forward to this thanksgiving for a long time. You could ask my students at church what I’ve been looking forward to for weeks and they would say Thanksgiving. Not only is it my absolute favorite holiday without a doubt. But this year was going to be even more special than most years. This years was going to be different than recent years.

A year ago I might have told you that there was a heavy heart at the Thanksgiving table because there was an open spot at the table. There was an open spot at the table that was reserved for one person, my brother Matt. He hadn’t been to any holiday meal in a very long time. At this point last year, I didn’t know when the next time that I would be able to speak with my brother. If you would have told me last year at this point that I was going to be cooking bacon for Matt’s dish thirty minutes before our family came to our house, I probably would have called you insane and looked at you like you had a few heads. Last year I just didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to write a post that looked similar to this

But that all changed on January 3rd, 2015 when we reconnected through the most unlikeliest of ways. But I am so grateful for the fact that we did reconnect. But I digress, back to Thanksgiving. I had been looking forward to this day since I knew that I learned that I was going to be  moving to Memphis when I took the job in April. It was going to be the first holiday that my whole immediate family would be together in 8 years.

Its been a long hard journey to this Thanksgiving. A few seats at the table for my family have not been filled, due to people passing away. But there was, for the last eight years, an open seat at the table. There was a void in my family.

But this year, this year was going to be different. This year that spot was going to be filled. By God’s faithfulness it was going to be filled. Matt told me earlier this year that he was going to be able to make it for Thanksgiving and I was excited

This week at home was a true testament of God’s faithfulness. For the first time in 8 years I sat across the table from my brother. I sat across from the guy who a year ago I didn’t know the next time I would see him. We ate stuffing, turkey, rolls, and just about anything else that was put in front of us. We drank beer and swapped beer. We played games with our family. We went on a late night Ice cream run. He even came and watched me run a 5K on Thanksgiving morning. To say that I was blessed this Thanksgiving would be the biggest understatement that was ever made.

There was not an open seat this year at the table. In fact we added a seat to the table because he brought his girlfriend with him as well. This year was different than most because this year every seat was full. (Not to mention my stomach that may have been too full.)

Don’t ever give up on God. His plan is bigger and better than anything that we could ever imagine. We are not sovereign over the world like God is so why don’t we trust in the Lord to help us out. I almost quit last year on god. I almost threw in the towel because I never thought that Matt would come home. But God was bigger and better than me like He always is.

Thad Ernst

 

Its been a minute (or 6 months) in Memphis

*Sidenote: A minute now means anywhere from an actual minute to three years, according to my students and my brother.

Next week will be my 6th month anniversary of moving to Memphis. Today is my 6th month anniversary of me graduating college. So we will just roll them all up into one blog post. A lot has happened in 6 months. I moved here to Memphis to begin my “adult” life and start my first job in ministry.I have gotten to do things that I never thought I would. I have applied a lot the my professors taught me in class that I never thought I would use. I have attended countless events to support my students. I have ordered wild drink combinations at Sonic. I have had real conversations with students who I never thought would open up. And I pray that God has been glorified through it all.

But all of that said does not mean that I have not struggled. If I told you that I haven’t struggled that would be a lie. I have struggled often to feel like I am a part of this place in the world called Memphis. I will not tell you that this past six months of my life have been the easiest. Heck, I might in fact tell you that the past six months have been some of the hardest if not the hardest six months of my life.

I have lost people and a pet in my 6 months here. I have lost two former teammates that I played soccer with growing up. Kids who I spent hours at their houses when I was growing up. I haven’t talked about that too many people but it isn’t easy when I open up Facebook and see RIP Marcus or RIP Cole. Two teammates, Two friends, Gone too soon. That takes it toll on a soul of a man. I lost my papa and my dog within a week of each other. (You can read more about that here)

At times I have felt extremely alone in this new phase of life. Its been extremely difficult to make friends here. Some of you who know me are probably saying right now “How? Thad you could befriend a brick wall.” While that may be true at times But it has been incredibly hard to find friends for me here. 6 months ago I knew only the people on staff at the church. Today I know most of the people in the church. But only have about 4-5 friends that I could call on that around my age. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that I only want friends around my age because I have plenty of friends back home that are older than me by a large amount and that is okay. It is hard to do life on your own without many friends that you can call up and say hey lets go do something. Or just a friend that has lived here that calls and says “Come watch the game”. I don’t have hardly anyone that will do that. But it has been tough to make friends here which have made for a lot of questioning. Questions like “Why did I move here?” “What is my purpose here?”

Those questions and times where I have been completely alone have been tough on me. Yes, my life looks like a ton of fun. I get to travel on weekends and see a ton of friends, watch sporting events, and make so many memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. But when the light fades away, behind the posts to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, there is a guy here that has real feelings. They aren’t all positives and some days the negatives outnumber the positives. That is taxing on my morale and some days I feel like I cannot do it.

But I have been immeasurably blessed by this move to Memphis. Even in the times where I felt like what I was doing was worthless, I get a glimpse, I get a sketch, a moment. I have a boss that is a boss that I want to work for every day. He is a boss that supports me and for that I am so thankful. David Weatherly is a man among men. He took a leap of faith when he hired me, a scrub college kid who was about to graduate to be his youth pastor. He saw potential in me and has been all in for me from day one and for that I cannot thank him enough for that.

I have an unreal church family and volunteer staff that blows me away every week. They support me, encourage me, and they do not let me settle for mediocre. And I am so grateful for people that push me to be the best that I can be. But some days there is doubt. Some weeks are lonely and I don’t feel like my worth is great. The past couple weeks have been tough on me because I feel like I should have friends my age by this point of my move to Memphis but I am finding that I don’t have many. But it was this week when all the doubt came out and the questions of “Why am I here?” came out. I was not in the best spot. I had spoken with some friends back home and just said, “You know, I think I did the wrong thing by moving here.” But last night I was pulled aside by one of my volunteers and they just told me (paraphrased) Thad you are doing a great job and I mean that. It was so rewarding to hear that and the other things that he was telling me. I was so grateful to hear that and I come home and just sat on my couch in awe of what I had just heard.

So yes in 6 months I have got to travel a lot. I have gotten to experience a real job. I have written a lot of my own lessons to teach to my kids. And I have gotten to make a ton of memories with some incredible people. but I have struggled. I have doubted. I have cried. I have been pushed to my limits. I have felt inadequate. But God…

But God has been ever faithful even when I had doubts and felt like that I could not go on another day. God has placed people back home to encourage me when I don’t feel like I can do this life anymore. God has been faithful to encourage me when I don’t feel like there is any hope left for me.

Thad Ernst

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The Day My Worship Playlist Opened My Eyes.

Every morning I usually wake up and go to the kitchen and grab a bite to eat. Then I turn on music to get my blood pumping for the day. I don’t usually pick my music and just go with whatever comes on or was used last on my Spotify account. Sometimes it is Macklemore. Other times it is NEEDTOBREATHE. And other times its my running playlist. But this morning was different. For the past few days I have felt apathetic in my walk with Jesus. I have just felt like it has been a struggle to get in the word and I haven’t been focused during the times I have gotten into the Bible. This morning when I woke up, I chose to listen to my worship playlist. For some reason, after I feeling apathetic for the past few days I CHOSE to listen to this playlist. It was not something that I mindlessly did but rather purposely chose to do.

As I was getting in the shower this morning this song came on. As I am standing there I began to mindlessly sing the song that was playing. But then I began to actually listen to the words that were being said in the song. “Christ is enough for me” “Everything I need is in you”. I began to think over the past week has this been true for me? Has my life reflected this? And I honestly had to answer “No it hasn’t”. It was an eye opener for me. one of those things that just punch you in the face and wake you up.

And then I asked myself, “Why?” “Why have I not thought that Christ was enough for me?” These aren’t easy questions to ask yourself especially when you work in a church. And after a few moments of standing there I came to the conclusion that I had just become lazy and faded back into the way of the world. The world tells you that it should be about getting the newest and the best. The world says that it is okay to be selfish and give into the wants of your flesh. But Jesus came and preached a different way of doing things. He didn’t come preaching that it was all about him or what he could do. But rather he pointed to God and set an example for us to follow. But I am not perfect and don’t always follow the example that was laid before us so many years ago when Jesus walked this earth.

You may think that I have it all together and that my walk with Jesus is always sunshine and rainbows because I am a youth pastor. But I am human before I am a youth pastor and I have flaws just like you do. I struggle in my walk with the Lord just like most of you do sometimes. There are some days that i do not want to get up and chase after the cross. Sometimes it takes someone to show me that I am struggling because I am prideful and don’t want to see it. But other times God reveals it to me through my own choices and reflection. We just have to look sometimes for the stuff we don’t see on the surface.

Most people that are people of faith feel like they aren’t allowed to struggle in their faith. But it is okay to struggle. Jacob struggled and wrestled with God on the banks of the Jabbok River in Genesis 32. The dude wrestled with God. But out of Jacob became Israel. So I will say that it is okay to struggle with things as a follower of God. Now don’t go out of here saying well Thad said I could, because I am not an expert nor does my word hold weight against the Bible. But I will say that the Bible said it and I believe the Bible as true.

But I will challenge you to be honest with people who you trust about your struggles. To be honest when you have doubts. Be open with your questions. Because how are you going to grow if you don’t share these things with other people. Other people will help you grow.

Thad Ernst

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*Also I can’t take credit for the feature image.

Nashville: Where I rediscovered intentionality

How hard is it to be real with people? How hard is it to look someone in the eye and say, “you know what I’m not okay because…of this or that? Its tough because so often we as society tell people that they have to be good or great. But when did conversations become such small talk? Society has become so entrenched with our phones that a conversation cannot be more than than small talk. People ask a few questions and then become lost in what Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and anything else that is on their phones. But sometimes people want so badly for the person that they are hanging out with to just put their phone down and just listen to them.

People are hurting all over the place. There is real pain in this world. But sometimes people are so engaged with what is happening on the 5-6 inch screen to realize  that people in front of them are in pain. They are so consumed with the phone to see that the people in front of them need them to be there to listen. Sometimes people don’t even see that the person in front of them could use a day that you put down the phone and just go with the flow.

I am very blessed that I was able to work at a place the past few summers that pushed us to be intentional with people that are in front of us. Kanakuk Kamps changed my mindset about being with people. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t have my phone all the time. Maybe it was the fact that I spent every waking hour with kids and college staff that was in the same spot as I was. Maybe it was the fact that once you put down your phone real life conversations can begin. Conversations that involve people talking to others and wanting to get to know that person genuinely. I can tell you that these were the best summers of my life. I have people all over the country that I could call at a moment’s notice and they would drop everything to talk because we forged those bonds without that thing society has been so attached to, a cell phone. But I can also go to their town and they would put the phone down and be ready to make memories immediately.

For awhile now, I have felt like I have been missing out on intentional conversations. So many people keep it so surface level and sometimes it is frustrating. For the past few months I have been frustrated. I have been frustrated by just the lack of depth that I have had in my conversations, mainly because people are so engaged with their phones. And this does not mean that I don’t do it. I am just as guilty about looking at my phone to avoid a deep conversation or an awkward conversation. The phone sometimes is my safety net. But why? Why do I look at my phone to avoid things? Why do I look at my phone to get out of having real conversations?

As most of you know I have traveled a lot in the past 5 weeks. I went to Chicago, KC, OKC, Chicago, and Nashville. I have traveled thousands of miles in 5 weeks. I have spent many weekends away from Memphis. I have gotten back to Memphis late Saturday nights and early Sunday mornings. I have found that so many people just want to talk and want me to listen or just talk back. But it wasn’t until last weekend that I made a day trip to Nashville. I made a day trip to Nashville that really has been such a blessing.

The trip to Nashville was to see a friend that (surprise, suprise) I met at Kamp. Catherine Simmons is a girl that goes to Lipscomb University that I met my first week on Kampout leadership last summer. Kampout is a traveling Kamp that is a day Kamp that partners with the local church to provide an experience for kids that would never get to go to Kamp. Now that I live in Memphis, I only live three hours from Nashville so it is an easy day trip. But back to the point of the blog post, Intentionality. I had been in a little bit of a funk by just the shallowness of conversations that I had been having. Last week I asked Catherine if she was free this weekend and then the ball got rolling for my Saturday trip. I was pumped to see her because she is a familiar face. We had an incredible day of running around Nashville. We were incredibly spontaneous, we ran around downtown, got hot dogs from a street vendor, randomly got free snow cones, explored buildings that neither of us had ever been into, thrifted and got some steals from Goodwill, ate crepes, and went to a Cowboy singing show. Yes a ton in 12 hours but it was an incredible day.

In the middle of Nashville Snow cone in hand

In the middle of Nashville Snow cone in hand

But what made the day one of my favorite days that I have been apart of was not all the random things we did. It was the time that was spent just being incredibly intentional. We asked real questions, some of them were deep and some of them were not so deep but rather fun questions. She asked hard questions that I didn’t want to answer but I was so thankful that she asked me them. But we put our phones down during meals and enjoyed each others company, and it was AWESOME! We had real conversations and they were a highlight that made my SportsCenter Top 10 list of the month. So thank you Catherine for showing me true intentionality at a time that I truly needed it.

So challenge for the blog today. When you are out with friends at dinner or something, put your phone down and enjoy the people that are there in front of you. People need it more than you need to scroll through Twitter or Facebook. They need it more than you want to see what everyone else is doing on snapchat.

Some food for thought

Some food for thought

Thad Ernst

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We’re on a mission..from God.

Tonight I was watching The Blues Brothers for the upteenth time. This is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s hilarious but it is also set in my favorite town, Chicago. I mean heck they give one of my favorite address ever as their address to cover up the tracks of criminal activity they have done, 1060 W. Addison. The address of my team, my Mecca, Wrigley Field. But as much as I love Chicago and Elwood and Jake, I got something from this movie that usually is taken as a joke because of the people who are saying it. The famous line from the movie “We’re on a mission from God.” But tonight it hit me. We are on a mission from God. This is a line that I have heard a ton of times.  As I said earlier I have seen this movie countless times but I never took this line seriously because it is just a line that the boys say in this classic film.

But we are on a mission from God. We the followers of Jesus are on a mission from God. That mission is to tell people about a Savior and be a part of the greatest ministry ever, the ministry of reconciliation. The ministry of reconciling the world back to Jesus. This is the greatest news and challenge that we as Christians can ever be a part of. Reconciling the world to Christ through our actions.

Last night I posed the question to my youth group, “If Jesus was at your school every day, who would he hang out with?” For some they answered quickly saying that Jesus would hang out with their group of friends. For others it took them a bit to come up with an answer to the question. One of my volunteers teaches special education preschool, she has students with Autism, in wheelchairs, and other disorders that make these sweet kids developmentally a little slower than others. Her response was very good but not out of selfish gain, “I think Jesus would hang out with my class, because my kids are the one pushed to the fringe because of their disorders.”

Me when I read to her class earlier in September

Me when I read to her class earlier in September

Why are these sweet kids pushed to the fringe of society? What has made society say that these kids aren’t just like every other kid? Why as Christians have we pushed them to the side? Because it makes us feel awkward to love on them? Because we aren’t disabled?

Another one of my kids answered, “I think that Jesus would hang out with the kids who are sitting alone at lunch” In that moment i was so grateful for that answer. Jesus did not go hang out with the “popular” people during his time on earth. In fact he was hated by most of the popular people for the things that he did. He went to people who were not considered great by society. So if we are following Jesus, why aren’t we doing the same? And this is not to say that I am doing it at all. This is a call out to myself. Why do we stop loving people well when it is awkward? If we are on a mission to reconcile the world to God why do we sometimes exclude people from that ministry?

We have been blessed with so much. Now it is time to give of our time, talents, and what we know to serve the Lord through this great endeavor that God has called us to do. So when you think you can’t go over to the person who always eats lunch alone or the person that no one wants to be around at the office, I want you to think of Elwood and Jake. I want you to think, I am on a mission from God. Maybe that ministry of reconciliation comes through just loving others with no holds barred. If so, let’s start loving everyone. Yes I said everyone. That means the outcast, the broken, the special needs person, the hard to work with person, and the hurting.

God did not give us the ministry of reconciliation so that we could choose who can or cannot. God gave it to us so that we who know Jesus and the good news would go share it and show the love. There was a thing when the US Supreme Court made gay marriage legal that was #LoveWins and now that I think of it, #LoveWon. It won long ago when a man named Jesus, who was from Nazereth a town that people made fun of because not many great people had come from there, died on the cross. Love won long ago. But we don’t show love because it is uncomfortable. So this is a challenge this week. Love those who are hard to love this week. Love those who could use some extra loving this week. Love the person that goes unnoticed. Love your neighbor. Love all those people and everyone who I didn’t mention because you’re on a mission from God.

Like the blog? Hate the blog? Let me know in the comments.

Thad Ernst

Redemption meets Joy

I just got back from an amazing couple days in Kansas City with my brother. We went and watched soccer and just had a great time. We have had this trip planned since about May. But as I was driving up to KC on Thursday night and back to Memphis today my mind began to wander. My mind began to reflect on just what the last year has looked like. A year ago, I was a senior in college and I was in a rough semester of very tough classes that actually did prepare me for this job i have now as a youth pastor. I was comfortable in most sense of the word because I had friends, fraternity brothers, and other people around me that I had known for quite awhile. I was living a pretty good life. But one part was missing…Matt. Matt is my only brother and he is 28 years old. Five and a half years older than I am.

I got to thinking about this past year and how i was even driving to Kansas City to have this weekend with Matt on Thursday night. Now like most of you I listen to music when I drive. It just helps me drive better and I love singing along to my favorite songs. Well I was listening to NEEDTOBREATHE as I began to see the signs that let me know that I was getting closer and closer to Kansas City. It just so happened to be NEEDTOBREATHE’s Live From the Woods album, which is their live album that they recorded in Nashville this past year. Side note: I have probably listened to this album 50-100 times because I enjoy it so much. But this song came on and it was so powerful that tears came to my eyes.

A year ago if you would have asked me if I would be spending the third weekend of September in Kansas City watching professional soccer and drinking craft beer with Matt, I would have looked at you like you had three heads and wrote you off for a crazy person. But God has plans that are so higher and greater than mine and yours. For those of you who are wondering why I would have thought this was such a crazy idea, give me a minute and let me tell you a little background on this whole situation.

When I was in 8th grade, my brother left. he left because he needed to find himself. He was out of my life until January of this year. There were times where I was growing up that I would question God by saying “Why me?” “Why am I going through this?” It was not the easiest route that I walked through high school and college without the person that I looked up to the most. Well let’s fast forward to last fall, I was just about ready to give up on God that God would bring Matt home. All I had prayed for consistently my whole college life was “God please let Matt be able to see me graduate college.” In October I began to have my doubts that God wouldn’t bring him home and he wouldn’t be able to see me graduate college. But God like always had a bigger and better plan than I did.

I was just about to give up hope when I went on Google+ over Christmas break as a last ditch effort to see if I could connect with him. Well I found him on there and just added him. I didn’t know if he ever got on there or not but I was sure that he would probably get an email notification that let him know that I added him. Well a few days later he messaged me and we got to talking. We FaceTimed and communicated every day and still do to this day. Well fast forward to February. I was able to go up and see Matt in Denver where he lives.

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First picture in 8 years together. February 2015

Well In march as I was walking across campus to my fraternity house for some meeting that I had to be at, Matt called. We were talking about going to Kansas City for a Sporting KC soccer game. He was saying well we should go in May. I told him I was most likely going to be available in May just not early May because i hadn’t finished school yet. I told him that graduation was on May 9th but anytime after that I was most likely going to be free to head to KC to watch our favorite team play. As I walked across the street to the fraternity house, he said something that I will never forget “Graduation is May 9th? I’ll be there.” I was so shocked and in awe. God had already done so much by just bringing him back into my life. I couldn’t hold back the tears but I told him that I was at the house for the meeting and told him I would call him later and chat. I just stood in the front yard of the fraternity house for a good fifteen minutes and just let the tears flow. It was something that only God could piece together.

May 8th came and Matt was in OKC to see me graduate the next day. May 9th I walked across the stage and he was sitting on the 3rd row. It was such a surreal moment that I did not think was going to happen even 6 months before.

Graduation May 2015

Graduation
May 2015

Fast forward to this weekend. I am driving to Kansas City to hang out with Matt and watch soccer. This is a trip that we have been talking about since March and has been planned since May. We sat 4th row behind the goal and watch Sporting Kansas City beat FC Dallas 3-1 with all the goals by Sporting scored on our end.

Welcome to Sporting Park!

Welcome to Sporting Park!

View from our seats

View from our seats

I tell you all of this to tell you, NEVER GIVE UP. Never give up on God, yourself, or something you believe in. Because if God wants it to happen, whether it be good or bad in your eyes it will happen. But don’t stop looking for God in everything. he is always up to something we just have to look for it because we might miss it if we don’t. In my case it was my brother, it may be something different in your case. But never give up hope. Never stop doing good.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.-Galatians 6:9

Thad Ernst

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It’s okay to just be OK

So many times I will be talking to a friend and ask them the simple question of “How are you?” Sometimes I know they are going through things. Sometimes I don’t but this is a question that I ask often. Most people say good even I say I am good some of the time. People expect that others will say that “I am good.” Most of the time I am doing well and feeling blessed. But sometimes I am not good, nor am I in a bad spot. I am just in a spot of OK or alright.

Last week I found myself in one of those spots. I was just OK. The week prior my heart had been through a lot. *If you would like to read more about what all I went through the week prior check my last blog post out here. People who I knew cared a lot about me reached out to me and asked “How are you?” They usually expect me to say that I am doing well and they knew what had happened so some may have expected for me to say that I wasn’t doing very good. But I was doing OK. I was in that middle zone where people sometimes do not know how to respond to someone asking about how they are doing.

But in the past 10 days or so I have really learned that it is okay to just be OK. But don’t let the conversation just end there. Ask them why are they just okay and be ready to listen. Some people just need to have someone listen from an outsiders perspective. But some people are too afraid to show that they don’t have their life together. Who has been feeding us this? Why as a society do we feel like we have to have it all together? It is okay to show that you are a human that hurts and bleeds. It is okay to say that you are just OK. You don’t have to always have a good day. There will be plenty of days that are tough. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or a day that the boss overloads you with work. You will have rough days. You also will have average, boring, just OK days too.

Rest in the OK days because everyday will not be sunshine and rainbows nor will they feel like the world is drowning you. The OK days will come. But I challenge you to find something good out of those days. Let those days where you just feel OK teach you something. Do not just go through them feeling down because you aren’t doing good. But look at those days and seek God wholeheartedly on those days. Do not give up because you did not feel God or experience Him. In Galatians 6:9 it says “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 

I hope that encourages you to be okay in being OK. If we seek him we will find him even on the days that are just alright. You don’t have to be doing well. But please don’t always doing terribly. If you are in that place then please let someone know. But it really is alright to just be alright.

Like the blog? Hate the blog? Let me know.

Thad Ernst

I bleed too.

When I created this blog, I promised myself that I would be real no matter what the circumstances were. You, as the reader, deserve to see a person who doesn’t just blog when things are good. But also when things are not so good. When all hits the fan and you wonder what to do. Well this past week a lot hit the fan, my heart took a beating, and now you will see me bleed.

Last week on Friday, My Papa passed away. He had battled Alzheimer’s for over 10 years and it was his time to go home. He got the call to the Big League in the Sky at around 8:45 last week. This was a man who had taught me so much. He taught me how to work many power tools and always put others first. This was a man who had been raised with absolutely nothing. He grew into a wonderful man. Born in 1925 in Muskogee, OK, my Papa, started life right before the depression hit. He didn’t know what was coming within the next five years of his life. But he grew into a man of splendid character and one who I will admire until the day I die.

He served his country in WWII as a torpedo man on a destroyer ship in the ocean. He always instilled in us a great sense of patriotism because he was a true patriot for this country. When he came home from war he met my grandmother and started dating the girl he would eventually marry. They were married for 67 years. Let’s think about that for a second. In this day and age some people’s marriages don’t last 10 years much less over sixty years. Even when his mind had been consumed by Alzheimer’s in his later years he still knew who my Mimi was and he always let everyone know that she was his world.

In his life he was strongly devoted to community service and to his church. he gave back as much as he could to everyone in the community. He was extremely gifted with fixing things and always lent a hand when he could or when he just saw the need to. He could fix everything. Us grandkids coined the term for Papa “Mr. Fix-It”. He could honestly fix anything and always did it with a smile on his face and love in his heart. The church called him before they called the maintenance man because they knew that he would be able to get the job done quickly and the right way, the first time. He was so good at what he did and I for 22 years got to watch him do what he did.

I am so proud to be the grandson of James Andrew DeCamp. He was a man that people could spend a lifetime trying to be like and they would not get remotely close. Now I have lost both of my Grandfathers. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that they both impacted me heavily and I am grateful for their time on this earth that  I got to spend with them. But the bleeding does not stop there.

Today as I was driving home to Memphis from Oklahoma where I had attended the funeral of my grandfather, I had my dog, Clark, in the car. We were almost to Russellville, AR and my tire blewout. Luckily I saved it and pulled off to the shoulder. I opened the door to check and see what had happened as I had just heard a loud noise from the car, Clark found a way to escape the car. He was then hit by an oncoming car that had nowhere to go. My pup that I had only had for three weeks was killed almost immediately. My best friend was no longer and as I carried him to the side of the road, blood running down my shirt and shorts, I told him that I loved him and that he could go meet Papa now.

I cried and cried. I’ve shed a lot of tears this week and shed even more today. But raising Clark taught me a lot and not just about life. but about the Gospel. I rescued Clark from the Memphis Animal Shelter which is a kill shelter and the one that the city of Memphis uses. God adopted me into his family by his son’s blood, that I would no longer walk in darkness and be an outsider. But that I would be an heir to the throne. I adopted Clark who was in the shelter for 2 weeks and was almost euthanized before I feel in love with him and rescued him. Clark had tons of energy and always was getting into mischief somehow once he warmed up to life at the apartment. I was always telling him “you can’t bite me” or “No, you can’t eat that frog” And in a few days I realized that Clark is me. I am a sinner who gets into trouble and needed someone to rescue me and needs someone to guide me, to hold me, to praise me, and to love me unconditionally.

Clark taught me more about the Gospel than I could have ever learned on my own. He taught me that I should long to sit at the Master’s feet and listen to him or even just be there. Clark loved laying by the couch where I lay if I am just watching Netflix, a ball game, or napping. I should long to sit at the feet of Jesus and just sit not try and be good enough or be holy enough but that I should sit there and love being there for the only reason of just being there.

We can learn a lot from our dogs if we just pay attention to the little things that they do. Heck they can bring us to a place where they are the teachers and we are the students if we allow ourselves time to watch them. I got to see this sunrise the other morning because Clark had woke me up because he wanted to play.

If you have a grandpa you haven’t seen in awhile, Call them and tell them that you love them. If you have an animal give them a hug from me and love them all the while. but also watch them and see what they are trying to teach you. Because you just never know what you will learn from your dog, cat, horse, lizard, fish, or any other animal you may have.

With a heavy heart,

Thad Ernst

IMG_2495

Clark

And Run..

Running was something in high school that I hated. I could not stand it. it did not seem fun to me. Probably because we had to run when we messed up at soccer. When I went to college I gained my freshman 15 and wanted to lose weight. So I took up working out and running. I ran 6 days a week and in 7 months I lost 36 pounds. Since then I have enjoyed running a lot. I run a few times a week and when I first moved to Memphis, one of my students convinced me to run the St. Jude half marathon in December. While I took up the challenge and some days it is way easier than others to go for runs and push myself. But other days it is tough to run or even be active.

But just like in everything, God has been teaching me through this whole running endeavor that I have set out on. It all started with this video in December. I watched this over Christmas break casually in a starbucks as I was waiting on a friend to catch up with. It was very good but I didn’t really start re-thinking about it until I started to train for this half marathon. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was so applicable to me but also to anyone else. I finally got it. I am constantly running this race called Life. This race will end when I take my last breath on this earth. I will cross the finish line of this life and I pray that I hear

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”-Matthew 25:21.

But the part that got me about Hebrews 12:1 and the video which I have rewatched over and over again now, was not the running part. It was the part that said “lay aside every weight and sin.” It didn’t say just lay aside sin. but it said lay aside every weight that does not help you run.

Now if I am going on a run, I will usually take as little as possible. I will have the clothes that I am wearing, my shoes, my phone (for music) and headphones, and my key to either my apartment or car depending on which I started running from. If it does not help me to run then I don’t take it. I don’t take a box of twinkies, my cowboy boots, or a heavy coat. Because all those things would weigh me down and in turn slow me down. So why when we are on this run with Jesus do we try to bring other things into it that weigh us down. Throw them off and RUN. If it is an addiction, talk to someone and have them hold you accountable. If it is a bad habit, put it down. If it is friends that drag you down and don’t push you toward the cross and toward Jesus, maybe it is time to reevaluate your friendship and not spend so much time with that person. Its not just sins that we are called to throw off but EVERYTHING that entangles us and leads us away from Jesus.

You might look at that list and say I am going to lose so much, I can’t do it. Look at Hebrews 12:2.  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

Jesus knew in the final days of his that he would be turned over to the authorities. He knew that he would be betrayed by everyone. He would be standing alone. He knew that he would be beaten and humiliated. He knew on the Mount of Olives as described in Luke 22:39-46 “his sweat became like great drops of blood.” This man knew that in the world’s eyes he was going to lose everything. He was going to have to die. But Jesus did it for us. He lost everything so that we could have everything. JESUS LOST EVERYTHING FOR US! So that we could be called sons, daughters, friends, and not enemies of the King. Because we were born into sin. We are full of sin. We sin every day. And without Jesus in our lives we are condemned. We are guilty of a holy wrath from a holy God. We deserve death in the most brutal way possible. Because we have sinned against a holy God. So if you think that throwing aside every weight that does not help you run toward Jesus will be a lot of loss, think again.

The loss of the things of this world will be worth eternity with a holy God that we get to call Abba Father. The Christian life is gain like John Piper said. It is gain, to know Jesus and experience his presence. So I’ll pose the question, Is laying aside every weight and sin worth it to you?

Thad Ernst

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