Thursday, December 8, 2011

30th Birthday Surprise Spectacular!!!!

I have the sweetest wife.  She is my best friend and the person I love most in the world.  And she gave me the best 30th birthday present ever - a surprise party at our house with a bunch of my closest friends.  And since I was born in 1981 it was an awesome 80's theme bonanza!

So here's the deal, not only is she super awesome at planning a secret surprise party - but she is also great at telling the story.  So if you click on the link below you will be taken to her personal blog page to read about it from her account (it tells the story of the day and there are great pics).

I will just post a few fun photos here but check out here blog to read the story.

Erin is awesome and I love her so much.

Erin's Blog Post on the Surprise Party!

Here are a few pics (including the second best present (next to the party itself) - a hand-picked, hand-signed, hand-delivered card from my beautiful niece, Elizabeth) ::


Monday, November 7, 2011

Long Time, No Blog! : )

You know when you are really diligent at exercising and find yourself in a healthy routine, but then life happens and you get off your routine?  And then maybe get a little out of shape.  And you know you should get back out there and exercise but the longer the time goes by the harder it is to get 'back on the horse.'

The same goes for blogging.

My sincere apologize for our absence.  : )

So in this post I will try to take little snapshots of some specific areas of life!

Our Fun Neighborhood
So we've been in our little house, on our little street, in our little neighborhood almost 4 months.  In previous posts we've talked about praying about where God would want us to live in order to build community with the people around us and that is happening here!  Honestly, life has been a little busier lately so we know that we need to make a little more effort to have neighbors over for dinner or to hang out, but the Lord has been good for opening the doors for relationships with a few of our neighbors who we hope to be able to share Christ's love with and see what the Holy Spirit might do in their (and our!) lives.

A few weeks ago we had some old and new friends over to our house for a hang-out get together.  Here are some pics!

So a couple of the things we are working towards comes from some encouragement we've received from other church planters and other people in our lives.  Over the next couple weeks we want to literally go to all the homes on our street and introduce ourselves and begin praying for the families.  We want them to know we are praying for them and that we want to see God move mightily in their lives.  Also, we are considering hosting a Christmas Party in our house and have cookie decorating and other fun celebratory things.

It's our hope to be the light of the world here in north McKinney.  Not that we are perfect people - but just the opposite, we are imperfect people who know the Perfect One.   Please pray for our neighborhood!  : )

Decaff, Tall, 1 Pump, No Foam, Extra Hot, Pumpkin Spice Latte
It's official as of a few days ago.  I am done with training and am officially a Starbucks Barista.  I think it should be Barsito for guys, but that's another blog post for another day.

I've been working at Starbucks for a little over 2 months now and there have been some great times and also some tough times.  As you can imagine, it was (and is) a steep learning curve learning the ins and outs of the coffee business, but from the beginning it's never been about the coffee or the paycheck.  It's about working well to the glory of God and seeking opportunities to love and speak the words of Christ to those around us.

The Lord has opened doors for me to really connect with some of my co-workers.  We laugh and have a great time working, but then He has been faithful to answer our prayers to allow some conversations to go to life, struggles, faith, God and even getting to specifically talk about Jesus.

To be honest, some days are a struggle and I wonder if I am really doing what I need to be when I'm cleaning the bathrooms for the 3rd time this week, but God is faihtful to give us fruit at just the right time and to remind me of Scriptures like Galatians 6 that encourage us not to give up but to keep trusting God, serving well and that God will bring the results in His time!

And it's also not a bad job working for Starbucks.  They are a good company.  : )

In Chains Film
Here's a picture from us gathering things for our garage sale to support the In Chains Film that is shedding light on the sex-trade industry in Nicaragua.  Check out there website a for more information!
(we didn't sell the dog!) : )

He Knows What You Need
We knew that taking this step of faith to come out to McKinney was going to be tough.  Especially coupling a few small things together with the move like me quitting my job during the biggest recession of my generation, getting married, leaving behind some friends and relationships, and Erin increasing her distance between her home and office.

But we also know that this would mean we would see God move in a way we don't when we would rather be comfortable than faithful.

So, on that note, God is faithful.  And He is never early or late in giving us what we need when we need it.  I'm hesitant to get into specifics.  I don't know why.  But what I will say is more than one time in the last four months financial needs have come up and God has provided just the right amount and just the right time.  I like to tell people that God has given us a bunch of "I've got you" moments already in theses last few months.

But not just financially or materially - but also relationally.  God has given us deeper connections withe some existing friends in McKinney while providing connection, community and friendship with new families and Christians who want to serve Christ in this city.  And God has also given relational fruit through friends at work as we are growing closer together but also seeing God open up hearts for deeper conversations about Truth.

Matthew 6 reminds us that there is a God, He is in control, and that He is a Father would wants to take care of his kids.  I feel like I have always felt that, but these season of life it seems to be more and more on display!  Praise him!

Partners in the City
One of the things that been the biggest blessing to us since moving here is the connection and partnership we've already felt with other believers in the community.  From just meeting new friends in the neighborhood to connecting with churches and ministry that want to help each other reach McKinney with the gospel, it's been a huge blessing already to begin partnering with people in seeking God on behalf of the city.  I'm excited to see what these partnerships could be after 10 years and not just 4 months!

Came to Seek and Save the Lost
This is our next 'strategic move' in trying to reach McKinney for Christ.  One thing that the Lord has put on both mine and Erin's heart as we are connection with our neighbors and those at work is that there are so many people who are far from God - but not only that, far from ever stepping into a church to hear the gospel.  Now, let me go on the record by saying that although the traditional church function is good and I think needed - we all should be doing more to reach people off-site then expecting them to come to the church.

With that we have been praying and are trusting that God is leading us to open our home to start a Bible Study specifically aimed for those who might have baggage, history, hurt or confusion that keeps them from entering a church building.  Bottom line - we want those in our sphere of life that won't go to a church to hear about Jesus and so we want to proclaim that in our home.  We will give you posted but our aim is to have that happen in early 2012.

Prayer Request
We could fill another 25 pages with prayer requests, so I'll try to keep it short and sweet.

- That Erin and I would seek daily to make Jesus our first and greatest love
- That after that we would pursue each other with a gospel-centered love
- Wisdom for how to best reach out to our neighborhood with gospel
- For hearts to be open and ready when the time comes to invite them to our house to study God's Word
- That we wouldn't begin to trust in ourselves and our ability to pull this off, but that the Holy Spirit would be who we are seeking, hearing from and yielding to.

Thank you so much for your love, prayers and support.  Feel free to email with any questions or words of encouragement!  We love to get those!!

In Christ,

p.s.  To make ends meet Erin has taken a modeling gig and I am her driver.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Settling in...

... sort of!

Life is definitely exciting for us here in McKinney post-wedding!  It's exciting and fun and we are grateful for all God's given us and for all He is doing to provide for us.  He is good indeed.

But to be honest, the lack of routine has been hard as well.  Erin is working on a new job schedule and I am still in the hunt for my own.  So as much fun as excitement is - we are hoping to find ourselves a little groove and get into a routine of living here soon!  But for now, here's an update on what's been going on.

Married Life
Being married is great!  It's been just over a month now and we are beginning to learn the intricacies of sharing life with another person.  While it's been by far be fun, sweet, and exciting with a lot of laughing and great times together - Erin and I both are sinners (surprise, surprise!) and so we are also at the very first stages of learning what it means to die to yourself and learn to lift up the other person.  I've heard that marriage is the first step into learning how selfish you really are (and that having kids is like a doctorate in that) so we are learning how to recognize that in ourselves and seek to follow the example of Jesus in how we love each other.  I know there is no one on the planet I would rather do that for, and so throughout all the stages of life our hope is that Jesus would continue working in us for His glory and our growing to be like Him.  But as for marriage - I recommend it!  : )

Be Our Guest... (to quote one of Erin's favorite Disney movies!)
We have had a lot of people come and visit us in the last few weeks.  My sister, Lindsay, and our sweet friends the Rains.  Scott and Nicole Stonehouse (our great friends, mentors and marriage counseling leaders) have also made the trip up.  Erin's brother, Michael, stayed the weekend with us last week and we were finally able to find a time to have our new neighbors over for a meal.  And last night we had the famous Paul Fazio over for dinner and ice cream!

And, of course, Landon and Kieshaun make multiple visits to our door each day.  (When does school start again?  : )  haha)

Our desire is that this house would be a place where Jesus is Lord and that when people come through our door they are in a place where they feel welcomed, loved and can hear the beautiful words of the gospel.  I am thankful for our visitors and hope to have many, many more throughout the years.

If you'd like to come stop by, say 'hey', eat a meal or need a place to crash for a night - shoot me an email!  We'd love to have you over.

More Connections
God keeps playing a wonderful cosmic game of connect-the-dots with me and Erin here in McKinney.  We have met, through providence, so many people that are up here in McKinney doing ministry that I've either met previously or God has allowed our heart to be communicated to them through someone else.  So whether they are new friends or the budding of previous introductions, God is helping us see little fruits of affirmation in the ministry leaders, pastors, students and other believers we have already connected with here in McKinney.  He is good and He is already putting pieces together in order to deliver the gospel to the harvest that is this community.  It is a combination of humbling, exciting, daunting and thrilling to be a part of it all.  Keep us in your prayers as we want this to be a huge movement and revival for the city of McKinney and the souls of men and women and families here!

Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho -- it's off to work we go...
Well, sort of.

Keep us in your prayers as we are waiting for a confirmation from Erin's job that would be a huge blessing to us in our ministry here.  I don't want to reveal the details yet until it become official (if it does) but it could be a really cool thing.

As for me, God is definitely teaching me things.  Some hard things.  But good things.  I don't want to paint a false picture on this blog like everything is fun and easy all the time and that there is nothing hard going on or no struggles to be had.  So, to be honest, this job search thing is tough and can be hard at times.  Don't get me wrong - I still believe in 2 foundational things --- 1) God is good all the time.  No matter our circumstance - He doesn't change (Heb. 13:8, Psalm 33:22).  2)  Everything is done for a reason, it is intentional, and it is for my good and His glory (Rom. 8:28).  So, in that, the struggle has purpose and meaning bigger than myself.

But it's hard to be rejected.  It's hard to be turned down.  It's hard when a job that you want really badly and you know you would be great at is unavailable because you don't meet their requirements.  It's hard when plan A and B don't work out.  It's plain terrible when plans G and H don't either.  But God is faithful.  God is good.  And God is the provider.  It's all His anyway (Psalm 24:1).  So He will provide in His right time.  And I know that the struggles I go through now allow me to know Jesus that much better (Phil. 3:10) - that every little shade of suffering I go through, while not NEARLY to the level of Christ or even others of the faith, but still it is an opportunity to take one small step closer to knowing my Jesus.  And it's all worth it.  And I also know that this will help me love others better - others that have had to go through a similar struggle (2 Cor. 1:3-5) so that they my reach out to this 'God of All Comfort', too.

So, I do have an interview at a place down the road on Monday and I am excited for that opportunity.  I appreciate more now than I did 5 rejections ago - and pray that this is a place the Lord might use me.

Church Shopping
I'm pretty sure I don't like that term even though I understand why people use it.

But Erin and I are doing that classic Bible-belt, 21st Century privilege of getting to customize which church experience 'suits us best.'  All joking aside, it's been a strange but good thing for me.  I have been in a wonderful community in one place for all my life and it has been healthy for me to experience how other people are trying to be lights of the world.  Sometimes I have to fight my cynicism and critical mindset - but in it all we hope to learn more about the spiritual culture of McKinney while desiring to find a fellowship we can connect with.  Erin had to go through this a few years ago to find Woodcreek and I am grateful for her heart being willing to go through it again.  I know it's not fun but it's another thing on her list of things worthy of going through to follow Jesus and I am so very, very grateful for her heart in the process!

Some Fun Stuff!
I thought I'd let you know about some books I just finished and some I'm working through now.  I won't go into official 'reviews' of them or anything, but I thought I would just share with you!

I finally got around to reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  It was a great read and I am always blown away at how God made his mind work and come up with some of those amazing analogies.  While I didn't always agree with some of the theological and practical conclusions he came to - I did appreciate his thoughtful and clear presentation of some harder truths of the faith.

I also recently finished King's Cross by pastor Tim Keller.  It's pretty much a walk-through of the gospel of Mark - but not verse-by-verse.  It's more of a detailed, synopsis, walk-through, summary, book.   Yeah.  I found it to be very insightful as Keller has such a great way of putting simple and complex thoughts together in a way that you can understand and he opens up truths from the word in a great way.  I HIGHLY recommend this book and I recommend you read it like a devotional.  Even though the Scripture passages are in the book, I suggest reading through Mark in your own Bible alongside reading this commentary.  Definitely worth it.

I also read through Francis Chan's latest Erasing Hell in response to the new (but not new) teachings out there that are unorthodox in their view of Hell.  I think Chan does a great job communicating an overview of the classical (and I believe true!) doctrine of Hell and challenging some current, ear-tickling trends on this topic.
* also, if you'd like to comment on the books, please email me.  save the comments on the blog for other things! : )

I am now working through Keller's Generous Justice 
as well as re-reading Osborne's Sticky Teams 
on building strong leadership teams.

That's all for now!  Thanks so much for all your support and keep praying for us!  Our desire is that Jesus Christ would receive praise and glory through our short little lives on this earth!!

For His Name alone!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Michael McCullough

Warning:  This is going to be long and there's a lot of pictures... : )

A Crazy Fun Month
Sorry that it has been over a month since the last blog post!  All my intentions were there, but you can imagine it has been a sort of busy few weeks.  For those of you just now joining us, here's what has happened in the last few weeks (and this isn't even the whole list)...
- Mike wrapped up ministry with the Senior High at Woodcreek (hard but encouraging)
- Mike said good-bye to the staff I have served with for 5 years (and some I have known for much, much longer)
- Erin had family and friends coming in from out of town that she was trying to give good time to.
- Erin's Bachelorette Party
- Mike's Bachelor Party
- Moving some more of Erin's things to the house
- Rehearsal Dinner
- Wedding (that's a big one!)
- Woodcreek Reception
- Heading off to Cancun! (Whoo-hoo!)
- Coming home and getting the house settled together
- Erin starting her new commute from McKinney to Dallas and back each day (and getting up EARLY!)
- Mike still searching and praying for a job in McKinney
- God bringing friends (old and new) to us here in our new hometown

Yup.  Just a little bit has been going on! : )  So let's take this in somewhat of a chronological order.

Stepping Away, Praising God, Leaving in Great Hands
It's been hard to walk away from the people in senior high that I have grown to love over the years.  My fellow staff members, the adult partners in the gospel, and of course the students who are so dear to my heart.  I don't have time to unpack all the feelings of gratitude and love, but I can say that God is good to me - and was gracious to me in the hour-long presentation that the students put on for me to say good-bye.  There were skits, songs, dances, and times of sharing that were precious to me.  I also received a book of notes and cards from students that was incredibly meaningful.  Some former students even made the trek in from college and other places for the evening.  I am thankful to Jesus for precious moments and dear friends.

Good-byes to my Friends, Partners and Fellow Soldiers
I went to pre-school at Richland Bible Fellowship, grew up there through high school, and returned after college to be on staff at Woodcreek for the last 5 years.  There are people here who have been fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters and friends to me and I am so grateful to Jesus for the time I was able to share with them all.  I'll miss being with them everyday, cracking jokes around the conference room table, praying together and grabbing lunches.  But, as good as all those things are, they are not the goal.  The goal, like the apostle Paul, is to press into Jesus and fulfill His call on our lives.  So I will be grateful for those things, enjoy those things, and even miss those things - but I will not worship those things.  So, as I step away, I am reminded that I am still working alongside those men and women, just in a different role in a different place - but all for the same purpose.  Glory to the Father by proclaiming and living the gospel of His Son.

Bachelorette Party
Erin might have to fill in more detail on this part, but I'll try to put in what I can.  Her Bridal party ladies took her out for a fun day and one of the highlights was going to Painting with a Twist in which all the girls were given lessons in painting and walked away with a masterpiece.  Erin looks especially cute in this picture and her painting turned out great.  Come to the Gallery at the McCullough's in McKinney and you can see it on display!! : )  I know Erin is so grateful to the Lord for the dear friends she has in her life and to be able to spend some fun time with them that week was a blessing!

Bachelor Party
Getting together all the men in my life that have poured into me and having them under one roof was something that I was looking forward to since Erin and I were engaged.  And this party did not disappoint.  Jon and Bryan took the lead on getting us food grilled, drinks serves, games played and words of encouragement and prayer.  It was a great evening of fun and laughter and I won't forget the feeling of being able to see men from all over the country and different stages in my life that God used to push me towards Himself.  It was a great evening.
* One of the highlights was this 'Shock Game' that rewarded slow reflexes with a shock through a hand-help paddle.  Here is us testing it out at the going away lunch my last day at Woodcreek

Rehearsal Dinner
And the blessings and encouragements keep rolling along...

This was a sweet evening of close family and friends spending time catching up, laughing, reminiscing and encouraging one another.  After some delicious food from Schiano's, we had an open time where our friends and family got to speak into our lives.  It was great for me to hear some many wonderful people say so many amazing and true things about Erin and the woman of God she is.  Friends spoke of her faithfulness, love and commitment to them.  Parents and grandparents shared how proud they were of her and what an incredible daughter and granddaughter she is.  It was a sweet time.  Literally.  My sister and Haley Christensen made us this AMAZING Mavs (and maybe there were some Spurs stuff on there - I can't remember) cake.  Not only was it gorgeous but it tasted amazing (4 different types of cakes in one!)  After gifts were passed out to the Wedding Party we headed home in anticipation for the BIG DAY!

It's Finally Here
(first things first, we don't have our wedding pictures yet - but we'll get there)

Simply put:  Jesus was honored, Erin was beautiful, the time was fun, and the memories will last a lifetime.

It was a longtime coming, but I finally got to see my beautiful bride, join in the lifelong promise of marriage together, share in worship with God and then party with friends and family.  Thank God for a beautiful day, a beautiful wedding and a beautiful Bride.  (Did I mention that Erin was GORGEOUS that day - and every day!)

Here are just a few snapshots.

Woodcreek Reception
The day after the wedding we had one last 'Hurrah' at partied it up with some friends and youth kids at Woodcreek.  There was dancing, food and fun.  Big thanks to my mom, Susan McCullough, for pulling that off.  It was a blast partying with everyone and then heading out for the honeymoon.  But before we left we were greeted with a group of Mike clones : )

Yes We Cancun
I'm already getting tired of hearing from myself so we'll make this short.  Cancun was amazing.  Great weather, met some new friends, beach, pool, snorkeling, swam with dolphins, zip line over the ocean, great food, more beach, more pool, more food, sleeping late, taking naps, jet-skis, more beach - pretty much all around awesome!

Life in McKinney

So here we go.  We are the McCullough's now.  And we live in McKinney.

It's so fun playing house and learning each other.  Sometimes things get stressful (when we have to building furniture we buy from Target and the instructions seem to require an advanced degree in engineering, or as our sweet but vocal dog is adjusting to a new home) but mainly it is a wonderful experience.  Erin is definitely taking one for the cause as she gets up super early to beat traffic on the way to work.  She is such an amazing woman.  But she believes the sacrifice is worth it to follow God on His call to spread the gospel in McKinney.

Speaking of that, we have already been connected with people here who are encouraging us and affirming God's calling on us here.  Through crazy stories of word of mouth and people sharing about what's happening, strangers in McKinney are contacting us to get together to talk about the church planting movement.  I was overwhelmed yesterday after an impromptu coffee with a passionate man here who wants to see this community infused with the gospel message of Christ.  He contacted me - after he was in east Texas visiting family and someone who had visited Woodcreek heard about what God was doing with me and Erin, took a bulletin from the church with them to east Texas and gave it to him out there.  When he came back to McKinney he emailed me and we got together and it was just a reminder of Who is really in control with all of these things.  God is so good!

Prayer Request
Please be lifting up some of these things as we begin life in McKinney:

- the neighbors we are meeting would come to know Christ through our relationship and sharing of our faith
- God would grant Erin extra energy and health with getting up so early for work
- that God would provide me a place to work (specifically some teaching jobs I am applying for that I think would be great)

Work Update:  I have a couple people who are trying to work their contacts and networks to find me some employment and I am applying at some places around the city.  Please pray for God's wisdom and guidance in this.

Praise God!
All praise to the God and Father or Our Lord Jesus Christ for all the good things He has done for us.  Erin and I are so thankful to Him for our friends, family, relationships and the provisions He has given us.  But more importantly than all those we are thankful for the gospel of Christ - that by the cross our debts have been paid and by the resurrection we've been shown the promise of a new hope!!  Praise God.

Friday, June 24, 2011

2 Weeks and 3 Weeks

2 Weeks
What a great last couple weeks it has been.  The Lord is good and has already given Erin and I in our late 20's more blessings than we could ask for in 100 lifetimes.  Our prayer now is one of gratitude and thanksgiving for God and His precious gifts, as well as making memorials for the times when we need to remember His goodness and faithfulness.

Praise the LORD, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5

In the last two weeks a lot has happened.  Erin was shipped off to Chicago for work where she got a little break from warm weather, but not so much of a break from job demands.  She's such a hard worker and constantly encourages me and challenges me to 'work as if serving the Lord and not men' and we are grateful for both the job she has and the people she works with (Colossians 3:23).

I had the privilege to take my last group of high school students to serve at the MITC in Cordoba, Mexico.  The Holy Spirit broke us down, worked us through, and built us up that week and I feel genuinely blessed and humbled to be able to be there with those students and leaders.  It's incredibly strengthening to my soul to see the tangible, expressed movement of God in the lives of people and we all were graced with the honor of having God move in our team.  Praise God for delivering miracles still today.

And Erin and I have spent time together getting the home organized.  It's crazy how much is going on, but it's so fun getting to play 'house' with Erin.  I'm ready for her to be there as it is hard when she drives away at the end of the day.

Which brings me to...

3 Weeks
Three weeks from today (and about 4.5 hours), Erin and I will be standing together before God, our family and our friends to enter into the convenant of gospel-centered marriage together.  I am so blessed to have such a beautiful, smart, fun and compassionate woman to spend the rest of my life with and I know we are both excited to see the journey God will take us on.  Our hope is to love each other well and to let our marriage and lives be spent on proclaiming the only hope of the gospel of Christ.  I can't wait to start this life with her.  (I mean I can wait because I have to - but you get the point!)

Some prayer requests:
- Erin and I would honor Jesus in how we love each other now, through the ceremony, and in life together.
- Although some job opportunities have opened up in McKinney, nothing is certain or stable and so continued prayer that God might present to us opportunities for me to work and give us wisdom in where to invest.
- For the families we have already met in our neighborhood: for their salvation and that Erin and I might be good ambassadors for the gospel with them
- Thankfulness to God for His goodness, unchanging character, grace and power in our lives!

Thanks so much for all your love, encouragement and support!  Remember, Erin and I love to read comments or get emails from you all!

In Christ,