Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Eve 2013


Praise Team

Full House

Post Service

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Protect Yourself with Gratitude

My dad is a beekeeper. It seems kind of funny to say that, but it is so like him to try something new and different. Along the way, family members have been educated by him in the discipline of beekeeping. We have been talking about gratitude at Columbus Road recently and a powerful illustration emerged from my recent beekeeping classes with dad.

On Thanksgiving, dad showed me his beekeeper outfit. I even TRIED IT ON. The suit covers the beekeepers entire body from head to toe. It is an outfit that keeps the bees from stinging the keeper while he or she works with the hive to maintain it. It dawned on me that there is a picture of how life happens in relation to bees and the keeper.

The bee stings in life come in the form of broken relationships, loss of jobs, isolation, conflict with people around us, and discontentment with our circumstances. The beekeeper's outfit represents prayer. The scriptures (Colossians 4:2) make it clear that gratitude protects us from the enemies of our lives.

It says, "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. " We see three simple admonitions in this verse. First we are to devote ourselves to prayer. This is simply explained. Run everything in your life past God all the time before acting or thinking about it on your own. This is obviously easier said than done.

The second thing we are to do is stay alert. Be cautious, active, and give strict attention to the circumstances that surround you. This is sometimes where we don't completely cover ourselves, and "bam"... we get stung. The best way to avoid those moments is by applying the third point. Always have an attitude of thanksgiving. We are protected from the stings when we chose the proper attitude. Gratitude is that protective covering when life happens in a way that is not favorable (or appears to be unfavorable).

Richard Baxter said this, "When men accustom themselves to have ten words or twenty of confession and petition for one of thanksgiving, and ten thoughts of sins and wants, and troubles, for the one of mercies, they starve thankfulness and turn it away."

It may be time to check to see if you have your protective outfit on. If you don't, watch out! The stings are on their way!

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Have you ever been stuck? I am not talking about being stuck in a ditch or at an airport. I am talking about being stuck in what to do to proceed with a project or a vision. I have been stuck for a little bit. I have been asking myself, "How can I take this to the next level?"

I have been racking my brain with questions, attempting to figure it out. Questions like: Why am I stuck? (which was not helpful); How can I get unstuck? (that didn't help either); When am I gonna get unstuck? (even worse yet...made it more painful); Who can help me get unstuck? (I couldn't think of anyone.)

Then it happened... and now I am unstuck.

How did this happen? When did this happen? Who helped me get unstuck? Here are my answers; they might just help you.
  1. I needed the time to think through why I was stuck. This required some time away from the every day routine and busyness of life. I needed time to gather information, talk to others, and think through the stuckness.
  2. I needed to remember key factors that played into my stuckness. My usual surroundings and routine weren't providing solutions. I reflected on my passions, gifts and abilities. I surveyed how I was using them, and the ways that I was not. Others shaped and affirmed my thinking through general conversations, without even knowing that they where helping me move forward.
  3. I began to dream again. It is sometimes hard to dream when you are too busy and the next thing is on top of you. To sit and prepare and work at something that "could be" refreshing. 
  4. Beginning the process of what-is-next takes a first step. For me, it required others to dream with. I realized a long time ago that "we" can do more. Taking the first step has already begun with an action plan, and with a goal (vision) in mind.
Are you stuck? If so, you may find a starting point to becoming unstuck by looking over these four steps. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It

I read a lot...I mean a lot. I try not to read only books about church stuff and theology. If you have ever noticed my Shelfari bookshelf, you'll see that I am all over the map with my interests. Most of the time, a book will capture my interest in the first three or four chapters, but by the time chapter five rolls around, I'm ready to put it down.

I recently have been reading a book that a friend recommended (thanks Stephen). It is entitled The Power of Habit. It is subtitled "Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It". I have not been able to put this book down. I find myself wanting to get back to the next page each time I put the silly thing down. It has amazing stories interwoven into the premious of the book. The stories are the cords that pull the book together neatly and logically.

I am not going to tell you the details of  book, nor am I going to give a review. I would simply say that this book is for those who have bad habits or habitually find themselves in the same place they don't like over and over again. I continually hear people say, "I don't like my... body, job, school, relationships, church, husband, wife, life, kids, spiritual journey..."

If you find yourself on the crazy wheel time and time again, you may want check this book out.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Take Time for Friends

If you want to know why there are two smiling fellows in the picture, it won't take much to figure it out. Mike Roux has taught me more about fishing and hunting in a short nine years than most learn in a lifetime. I would be the first to say that any success that I have in the sport would be to his credit.

We had an opportunity to get together last Thursday evening for a quick fishing trip. Mike moved to Springfield last winter and our time together has been limited. I couldn't wait to catch up on his life. From the minute I got into the truck until I got out, we were talking, making plans, and catching up.

I've missed Mike and wanted to make the most of the evening. Mike can flat out get it done in the field and on the water, but I have a way of making each time interesting for him. We like competing, yet I am the one who sets the rules. I find a way of winning every time no matter how well he does. Tonight was not an exception.

I decided that the first to hook a fish would be the winner tonight. I had no idea what was about to happen. As soon as we got into the water I cast, and bammmm!!! I hit a monster. She came out of the water and shook off my lure. We knew that the night had some amazing potential.We tend to have amazing success together and this was the start of a night to remember.

Two casts later, I got the first fish into the boat. I won!! And couple of minutes later I got the second one in the boat. Mike started to catch a few fish. We proceeded to catch twenty-five small mouth bass in a short two hours. It averaged out to catching a fish every six minutes. That is a great time for anyone on the water! Mike ended up destroying me with the size of his fish. He ended up catching three four-pound-plus bass for the night.

We were so excited to be together, having a blast blowing up lines with fish. Hunting and fishing is fun, but there is nothing like experiencing life with someone else. Make sure you take the time to spend quality time with your friends, living life together.

Ecclesiastes 4:21 says,"And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Does Your Paycheck Have A Purpose?

We have been talking a lot about work at Columbus Road over the last few weeks.  The scriptures have taught us that we are created by God for work. Genesis 1:28 states, God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground." 

We receive a reward for work. Sometimes it comes in affirmation or a sense of accomplishment.  I find work to be rewarding when it matches my passions and gifts. Most of the time, we look for the paycheck as the reward for our labor. Money empowers us to leverage resources for the priorities of our life. 

When you receive your next paycheck, challenge your thinking with these five simple principles and then take a moment to evaluate how you meet up.

1. God is not a fan of debt. Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.  If you have debt, what is your plan to retire the debt? It is no fun feeling like a slave. By choosing debt we often choose to place ourselves into slavery.

 2. Contentment is key. I find it hard to go to the mall and remain content. For you it may be the car lot or the furniture store. Some struggle going into a home improvement store without coming out with a cart full of "gems". 1 Timothy 6:8 says, If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. Now there is a verse that could use some consideration. So what stuff are you discontent with?

 3. Start saving. Proverbs 21:20 says, There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up. How much money did you save in July? I know that might be a strange question, but when I asked it at a recent men's group meeting, everyone looked at me like I just stepped off of a spaceship. The reality is this: saving money takes discipline. If you did not save anything last month, the chance that you will save something this month is slim to none. 

4. Create a budget and follow it. Luke 14:28-30 says, For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish. A budget is simply a plan. Plans should be reviewed regularly. If God is the one who has the plan for our lives, it would only be logical that our budgets would reflect His plan.

 5. Work hard, really hard. Proverbs 6:6-8 says, Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. I love this verse for a couple of reasons. One is that I like visuals. To watch ants work is an incredible thing. They never stop and they work with such purpose. 

So, how is it for you?  Are you working hard with a plan and content with God's provision?


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Welcoming the Donovan Family

Columbus Road Church called Tom Donovan to be the assistant pastor this evening at the church's semi-annual vision meeting. Tom has been a member at Columbus Road for eight years and has served as a deacon for the last six. Tom comes to the staff with a wide range of gifts and abilities that will serve the body well. He will be leading the discipleship ministries of the church.

Tom is married to Amy. They have four boys: Andrew, Benjamin, Jeremiah, and Samuel. He is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He also has a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Sioux Falls Seminary. 

We are excited to see how God will work in the coming days through Tom's ministry. He will come on board in the first week of August. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Home for a Week

My wife's family has always valued family vacations. Being a part of her family has taken me places that I could only have imagined going. Through the years, I have traveled with them both in the U.S. and abroad. Many memories have been made.

The Rafters

It is interesting to see how our family has grown. We now have three generations of travelers. Seeing my nephews with families reminds of when I was a young father. It brings to mind so many trips and stories.

This year we all ended up in Granby, Colorado. Our time was precious together. We made another chapter's worth of memories. It is so different traveling with three teenage daughters and a son who is an adult. We even had a special guest who joined us on the trip ("Hannah" - Matt's special friend).
Matt and Hannah

We experienced many new things together, as well as some of the staples that have bonded the group over the years.  I had the unique opportunity to order some rocky mountain oysters as an appetizer at the Sagebrush BBQ & Grill without telling my girls what they were. They all ate them before I was able to have the waitress explain what they were.

A Rocky Mountain Oyster
My girls went on their first whitewater rafting trip, and Madison made her first cliff jump off of a 25-foot ledge. We all experienced a ski lift and a natural sulfur spring. These new experiences provided great memories and many photo opportunities.
Right after the 25-foot jump

Some of the old staples included hosting a family meal for the other families. This year the Cowman's prepared a Mexican meal. We played many games as a group. The volleyball court was always being taken by the Hackenberger clan. My ten year old nephew, Cameron, organized a family tennis tournament that was one of my personal favorites.

The Champions

I am so blessed to have been able to experience the benefits of these family vacations over the years. As a young man, I did not see the value or the importance of going off the grid as a family to enjoy one another's company.

I encourage you to make plans to vacation with your family. Some of the best times as a family have been experienced on vacation.

At the Sagebrush

They accomplished their mission.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wednesday Nights at Columbus Road

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Many Hands Make Light Work
Columbus Road just completed Vacation Bible School last week. Our VBS ministry is quite different from most in that our teens have a great deal to do with this program. Former pastor Jeff Westcott designed and implemented a program that we call S.M.I. (Student Missionary Internship). S.M.I. is a discipleship ministry that trains teens to serve in the local church. As part of the S.M.I curriculum, the teens plan and execute a VBS program. Each aspect of ministry is done, start to finish, by the teens.

They are responsible for planning, decorating, purchasing and implementing the VBS program. I am so impressed with the commitment and dedication shown by each of the young people involved. Our S.M.I. summer ministry takes place not only at C.R., but also at our church plant in Pittsfield, Illinois.  The students provide the same VBS there during the second week of July.

I came across some interesting pictures this week. Each one of the pictures is of young people who led some aspect of VBS this year, and who were also participants in my first VBS at Columbus Road eight years ago. God has moved these young people from being spectators, to participants, to servants in just eight years. Take a look:

Madison Now
Madison Then
Ben Now
Ben Then
Collin Now
Collin Then

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Graduation at Greenville College

Our New Christmas Picture 

I am very proud of Matt Cowman. It is great that he graduated from college. I never doubted that he would. He is a focused young man who has a lot to offer to others. I am proud of the impact he made while at Greenville. He made a conscious decision to invest in the lives of others. It was very evident on the last day there that he did not waste any time.
My Three Boys (Mike, Jay, and Matt)

Our family hosted countless young people in our home over the last four years due to Matt's hospitality. Any person who could not go home for a break ended up at our place. We interned one of Matt's friends, Jay Yousef, and practically adopted Michael Carlisle over the four years. Many others greeted our family on graduation day. Parents, professors, and students, all thanking us for Matt. This is what I am truly proud of.

So here is my take away from Sunday. Thank you, Greenville College, for developing and facilitating the gifts and abilities in Matt. He has been given so many opportunities to impact others. Greenville is a very good school that I highly recommend. Another thing that I have been reminded of is that a school should be judged by the people it develops, and not the pedigree that it provides. Few employers today ask where you went to school.

I Couldn't Resist

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Great Friends

Great friends are hard to come by. If ya got one, hold tight and don't let go. In the world of electronics, fast-paced living, and dramatic change, friendships are hard to develop. I have been blessed beyond words to have these two amazing friends for the last fifteen years.

I have experienced so much life with the Westcotts. Most people, other than your own family members, do not experience the birth of your children, the purchase of your first home, the death of a parent, become a client for your business, and participate in a decade of ministry together. I have lived these things with Jeff and Julie Westcott. This does not include the countless car purchases Jeff has made or the number of animals they have brought into there home. We have experienced together about everything that life could hand a person.

I want everyone to know just how important Jeff and Julie Westcott have been to me. Any level of success or accomplishment that I have experienced would not have happened without Jeff and Julie's help. Countless projects and ministry initiatives have happened with those two heavily involved. We have a lifetime of stories, experiences, and lessons that I cherish. I count myself to be incredibly blessed to have served alongside them.

I am going to miss having them in my everyday life, but what I know is that they will always be in my thoughts and prayers. Visits and vacations together will be planned, and who knows a ministry project here and there maybe in our future?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lesson from a Garage Sale


Have you ever been to a garage sale? Most people reading this blog would answer, "Oh ya" Have you ever had a garage sale? The answers would vary depending on the age of the person and possibly where they are from. 

Garage sales have been a part of the Cowman tradition for many years. I think that we have had a sale for the last 8 years running. I usually initiate the annual event by picking the date and rallying the troops to gather up some of the treasure found in closets and the storage room.

We have never gotten rich from any of our sales nor have we really created more space in our storage but many memories and lessons have been learned through the years that make it a priceless annual family activity. Here are a few lessons we were able to pass onto our girls this year.

Two Ambitious Sales Representatives
Micheala learned that there are a lot of old men that go garage "saleing". I think that is hilarious !!! So all you guys out there who do not like that your wife goes... it may be your destiny. She also discovered that rainy days create opportunities to be patient and not to close the sale just because it is cold.

Meredith gained insight on how to speak to people. She was a great sales person and her skills were honed. Money is something that many teens do not have to manage. They usually spend the money that they are given or earned. Meredith enjoyed operating the register (which I have provided a pic for you).  Exchanging money is a great skill to learn.

Madison shared with me in her normal insightful fashion. She said, "I am learning that things come and go but what is important is the people you are with", Hmmm.... from the mouth of teens. She went on to say that we live with much more than we need or find useful. I guess that should help us on the purchasing end, right?? We will see.

After all these years, I still can't believe I have three daughters. They are now teenagers and I am loving my time with them. Experiencing different activities and providing opportunities for the girls to learn and grow thrills me. You may want to consider the everyday things to teach the everyday things.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Lesson in Finishing Strong

2013 Mid-America Cup College Showcase U-14 Girls Champions

Have you ever found it hard to finish strong? Have you ever found your heart in a place where you wanted to just ride it out? Have you ever just thought, "I will settle.... settle and let the chips fall where they may."? I think one of the hardest things for human beings to do is to finish strong. People tend to fade when the going gets rough or near the finish.  I was reminded this weekend that oftentimes the best is found at the end...if you finish strong.

This weekend was a reminder to me that if you finish strong, great things can happen. My Quincy United U-14 girls played in a tournament in Peoria. We have been very successful this season, but that did not guarantee us success this time. We started off slow on Saturday morning, but managed to pull off a 2-0 win in our opening game. I was not too concerned, since we never play well in the first match of a tournament.

Our second game was later the same day. We came out slow (again) and were not playing well together. As the game went on, we continued to make mistakes and we looked very sluggish. Things fell apart for our team and we ended up tying 1-1. We should have destroyed our opponent, but we didn't. I felt like I had called a poor game and my team under-performed. Our backs were against the wall...We had to win the next match or we would be coming home early.

I decided to call a rare team meeting. We all gathered in one of the hotel rooms just before we all called it a night. I began the meeting by apologizing to my team for my poor coaching and for not preparing them for the task at hand. I then challenged the girls to do a heartfelt evaluation of their performance and desire. They were all ears and leaned in. The last thing that I told them was, win or lose, I wanted them to finish strong. I could live with the results as long as we finished well.

Sunday's match was quite a turnaround. The girls came out with passion and heart. The match was a battle. We scored early in the match and the competition responded right after halftime to tie. The second half was hard-fought. We were running out of time. A tie would put us in our cars and headed home to Quincy. The girls didn't give up, and with one minute left in the match, we  scored! We played hard to the very end, and now had made it to the championship. We finished strong!!

We were excited to make it to the final, but we were beat up. Two players were injured in the match, and we had only two hours to rest before the last match. I didn't have a lot to say before the final match. I told the girls to leave every ounce of energy on the field and to finish the deal.

We came out and exercised our will against the Peoria team and won in convincing fashion. A 2-0 victory led us to the podium. We finished strong even when things were not going well.

 Are you at a moment in your life in which you need to finish something strong? I will leave you with this quote:

"If the word QUIT is in your vocabulary, then the word FINISH is likely not." - B.G. Jett

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sunday Service Favorites

There are several things that I truly love about Easter Sunday. I thought I would list a few of my favorite things. 

The breakfast that Shane and his crew prepare for us is amazing. The biscuits and gravy are a favorite of many. They serve breakfast from 8:30 til 10:00 in the KidZone building.

The music is full and energized. There is just something about Easter where people sing from a place of victory vs defeat. I am looking forward to listening to Allison, Jen and Amy at the beginning of both services.

I really enjoy speaking to people. Sharing the Gospel in a clear and simple way reminds me of my times at the Huron County Jail. We will be looking at Romans 8:1-16. It is a passage that clearly states that we are no longer condemned.

Everyone puts on their Sunday best at Easter. I like to dress up and Easter is no exception!

I have the privilege of baptizing two people Sunday morning who have come to Christ as a result of the ministry of Columbus Road. 

I enjoy seeing friends who have come back into town for the day to visit family.

We are all attending the services to celebrate the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation Jesus provides through His resurrection. 
I look forward to tomorrow and I hope you are also. What are some of your favorite parts of Easter? 

If you do not have a church home, you are more than welcome to come to Columbus Road. Our services are at 9:00 and 10:30.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 CR Archery League - Off to a Super Start !

I had the opportunity to stop in and visit the opening night of the Columbus Road Archery League. I walked in to a room filled with enthusiastic archers. We have over 70 people participating in the 2013 league. People of all ages and skill levels have joined in on the fun. The league spans over a ten week period. Teams are formed and  scores kept to determine champions at the end. Here are a few pictures to help capture the night.

At Full Draw

A Full House 
Check Out The Equipment
A special thanks goes out to Wes Siepel, Brian Hodges and Doug Althide for their leadership and management of the league this year!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bill Hybels - On the Beauty and Power of the Local Church

"I have a little mantra: There's nothing like the local church when the local church is working right.
When the Spirit is in charge, and when God's anointing power is on a church, lost people are getting found, and found people are growing up, and lonely people are getting enfolded, and bored people are finding purpose and a cause, and the poor are being cared for. To me, when that's all happening, prompted, and empowered by the Spirit as opposed to fueled by human power, that is the most beautiful activity I've ever witnessed."