Neoblogs: A New Home

We are currently in the midst of recreating our blogosphere in hopes to bring back the many neobloggers in the fellowship.

  • New additions include now a base site that displays all the most recent posts from current authors.
  • Linked sites for better navigation
  • Updated user functionality for both readers and authors

If you would like to start your own blog or migrate your existing blog back to our new home feel free to contact me at interns@neoxenos.org

Current users may also contact me for support with updating themes and looks for their blog site.

To access you blog site just click you name listed on the site to take you to your blog page, then just click the login link on the side!

UPDATE!!!!

As those of you who have blog sites may have noticed, you should have received an email to set up a new password. This was cause by a transition in our database to make future endeavors much simpler. If you have ANY issues logging in please contact me.

As far as linking social media with your blogs, we will be using Jetpack, you can find this on your dashboard. To do this follow these steps:

1) Log into WordPress and go to your dashboard
2) Towards the top left-hand side click on the “Jetpack” tab
3) It should go to a screen with a giant banner saying to log in with your wordpress.com credentials, along with 6 bubbles of options below it. Click on the giant banner to login and create a new user for yourself (its really easy)
4) After this go back to the previous page and click on the “Sharing” bubble.
5) Once there drag in the social media forms you would like, i.e. twitter or facebook. Make sure you are logged into those accounts. Then simply click the connect button.
6) Before you save at the bottom make sure to change the “Button Style” to “Official Buttons” and then on the “Show Buttons On” section, click the “Posts” tab.
7) Then save and it may take a few minutes to show on your blog, as always if you have any issues, shoot me an email (interns@neoxenos.org)

Hoopla will save you money

Many people who see me regularly may laugh at me for writing this little blog post. I already tell people about the library, and Hoopla especially, way too much. When I taught a Bible study last weekend, people in my home church’s group chat were posting about how I was probably going to make a Hoopla reference while teaching (I didn’t…). Still, with so much talk about how amazing the library and apps like Hoopla are, it amazes me how many people don’t take advantage of these awesome resources. I’ve recommended Hoopla to people over and over again and they still come back with excuses like “I have fines at the library” (get a different library card… (or pay the fines)), “I like physical books” (libraries have those too!), or “I don’t like to read” (you’re an adult now! Try again!). Anyway, I really like the library and think more people should give it a shot. Check out this blog post about it as well. 

If you want to read more and prefer to not waste money, grab your library card and download the apps Hoopla and Libby. Don’t have a library card? You can get one for free. Most cities let you sign up even if you don’t live there (I have five different library cards). If you live anywhere in the state of Ohio, you can sign up for a Columbus Metropolitan Library card online and they’ll mail it to you (again- this is all free!). I always recommend this step to people since 1) you don’t have to leave your house, 2) the Columbus library has a great selection and 3) it’s, like all things library, free! 

Like I said above, once you have your library card, download the apps Hoopla and Libby. It’s a bit annoying there are multiple library apps for reading and audio books, but it’s not too big of a deal. Hoopla is my favorite since there are no holds, meaning there is no limit to how many people can download a specific ebook or audiobook at once. Libby is the opposite, so you have to be first in line to get the book. 

If anyone would like help with any of these steps, feel free to reach out. I love helping people get into reading in new ways. That being said, I think you can figure it out. The steps are pretty easy once you give it a few minutes. Now I’d like to give a few book recommendations for both of the apps. This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, but I’d like to show you an example of some of the great titles you can read or listen to for free. 

Hoopla

  • The Hiding Place – Corrie Ten Boom
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald 
  • The Lost Art of Disciple Making – Leroy Eims 
  • Insights on James, 1 & 2 Peter – Charles Swindoll (most of the New Testament is on here, too)
  • How Dare the Sun Rise – Sandra Uwiringiyimana 
  • The God Who is There – Francis A. Schaeffer
  • Tactics – Gregory Koukl
  • Speaking to Teenagers – Doug Fields
  • Heaven – Joni Eareckson Tada
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis
  • Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Peter Scazzero 
  • Generation Me -Jean M. Twenge 
  • The Truth About Us – Brant Hansen 
  • Unoffendable – Brant Hansen
  • Blessed are the Misfits– Brant Hansen
  • Wild at Heart – John Eldredge

Libby:

  • Martin Luther – Eric Metaxas
  • How to Really Love Your Child – D. Ross Campbell (starting this one now)
  • Escape from Camp 14 – Blaine Harden
  • The Help – Kathryn Stockett
  • Audacity – Melanie Crowder
  • Hillbilly Elegy- J.D. Vance 
  • Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus– Nabeel Qureshi 

There are many, many more great books out there for free on Hoopla and Libby (and, of course, at the physical library). Happy reading everyone. What other good books on these apps did I miss? I’d love to hear any recommendations. Also, check out my wife Elli’s post from last month on books she recommends!

2020 Books

At the beginning of the year I found out I was pregnant. This news sparked in me a whole lot of “there’s so much to do!” One of the things I’m glad my freak out lead to was to learn to read again. I set a goal to read a book a month. At first I think I went too fast… But overall, I’m so glad I’ve gotten into this habit of reading. It’s so crazy what one chapter a day can do for your mind (or one a week!!) And it’s INSANE how much time you can save by plugging your phone in the other room, walking away, and choosing to focus in on a book. I’ve chosen to document the good reads here so I can honestly brag about my accomplishment… But also to let y’all know what I think is worth it! (Spoiler alert: every book I’ve ready is 10/10!) 

Praying with Paul by DA Carson

I started this one January 1st because my beloved Darlene gave it to me for Christmas! So, you know it’s gonna be good. It was. It was definitely the first Carson book I could finish and get something from it. I struggle with prayer the older I get. I get busier. I forget. I grow MORE selfish!! How is that possible?! Yet, this book – instead of lessons on prayer and teaching you how and all the nifty ways to spice up your sex life — ER I MEAN PRAYER LIFE! (But aren’t a lot of prayer books like that?! lol.) Instead of that, Carson really wonderfully outlines Paul’s prayers! And lemme tell you, a spiritual book that begins with a chunk of scripture each chapter is something I can get behind! Use the Word, please! Thank you, Carson. (Beware: he’s Calvinist for sure. Also, very dense! But the theology is one of my favorites. It reminded me it’s all about God and when we look at who he is first, our prayer life changes tons.) 


Unleashed by Samuel Stephens 

Of COURSE I have to plug this! It’s by Rev. Samuel Stephens – only the most awesome church planter this century has seen! (OK, I’m biased. I work for India Gospel League – which he began.) But, I can’t tell you enough how much I love this book. It’s sings in perfect harmony with Acts/the first century church and is really a guide on how churches today can be more like the church in Acts! It’s refreshing, challenging and makes me excited to do ministry in all out dependence on following the adventure the Holy Spirit has set! I think all Freedom Fellowship folks will enjoy it and will be rejuvenated to hear that other people in the world like to “do church” our way! (Which is really relationally!) 

Can Science Explain Everything? by John Lennox

Lennox has a special place in my heart since that one time he spoke at XSI and used the last part of his teaching to speak directly to the young people in the room. I can’t tell you how much, as a young person struggling with my faith, that meant. Everything he says is somehow revolutionary and soaking in humility. You can’t help but love the guy! He’s got a great sense of humor, too. The book really reads like one of his talks – a conversation. I picked this one because it was short and I suck at apologetics. What I liked about it was that it wasn’t so much an apologetics books, but an argument for why science & the Bible can work. He walked you through the WHY – why it’s possible there is a God and science, why scientists words aren’t truth, why you should think through big questions in life. It’s good. So good, I got it for one of my high school buddies. This is the kind of stuff I’d like to start discussing with my younger friends. I wish I did more pondering like this earlier on. Definitely worth the read in light of the cultural pressures around us! 

So the Next Generation Will Know by J Warner Wallace & Sean McDowell 

I feel like everyone is talking about this one lately… But with good reason! It’s a great resource for anyone working with youth or is a youth themselves or have birthed youths. For one thing I strongly respect in this book is their prioritization of how important it is we win the youth. Too many christian churches don’t do that. It’s sad. I think it’s because it’s frustrating – the new generations are really a whole new breed. And it DOES take WORK, but a labor of love. I wish everyone to read it and to get their hearts set on fire for this next generation. I honestly feel so badly for them with everything they’re up against. The future seems bleak, but these guys did a lot of great work with how to fight for them! (Spoiler: DISCIPLESHIP is everywhere in the solutions chapters!!) 

Blessed are the Misfits by Brant Hansen 

ANOTHER great one everyone seems to be reading. Which is fantastic. Everyone should read this book. It’s such a beautiful perspective on how every person’s walk with Jesus is unique. It was encouraging for myself as a reminder not to compare my walk with others, and a great encouragement for many people in my life who are very much not me and very much don’t fit the Freedom Fellowship “mold” of how you walk. Overall, it’s a great book that expands on the truth that God “meets us where we’re at.” Hansen lays out grace so well and critiques christian culture so entertainingly. I hope we can make this a staple and that I can learn to see people through Jesus’ eyes and help them learn grace as much as he’s shown it to me. 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

OPE not a spiritual book! Nope, this was one fun one and the one I read in 3 days. LOL. It was just good. The drama, the mystery, the romance… I would recommend this to anyone! But I get that it’s not for everyone. 🙂 

Unoffendable by Brant Hansen

ANOTHA ONE! Yup, he kinda won me with that first one. And this one was ALSO very good. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but lemme tell you – I felt REBUKED. It was a lot to think about. The premise is that we’re selfish and get angry at others for selfish reasons. But, we don’t have the right to get angry/annoyed/offended when we’re such sinners ourselves! Overall, it was really humbling. I was really thankful to read it when I did- about to go into a hard situation with hard to love people. And choosing not to be offended or angry beforehand changed the outcome of those events. I think I’ll need to read this one every couple of years given my self-righteous anger tendencies… (It would pair really nicely with an old classic, “Humility” by Andrew Murray.) 

What’s next? Currently reading: 

  • The Truth About Us by Brant Hansen
  • The Man in White by Johnny Cash

After that:

  • Christian Parenting by Dennis McCallum
  • & open for recommendations!!

Learning from Philip

It is now month three (I think?) of all this quarantine business, and I have to say that it feels like it just won’t ever stop. Will life ever get back to normal? When can I go to a coffee shop again? Will my wife, in September, be able to celebrate and visit with her friends after the delivery of our son? There are many questions.

The stay-at-home order has especially impacted ministry, among other things. We just can’t meet in the large groups that we used to. We can’t even meet in home churches right now, which is so strange. If you’re like me and wanting ministry to “pick up” again soon, you might be wondering why God is allowing such a pause to take place on an important thing like His work. For me, I’ve watched the high school groups I’m part of slow down considerably. I’m sure if you’re involved in some sort of ministry things are definitely not how they used to be. What’s going on?

Well, I’m not sure I can give a complete answer to that question. However, I think it is 100% reasonable to suggest that God has something in store for this season that could blow our minds later on when we can see the big picture. For an example of this, let’s look at the story of Philip in the New Testament book of Acts.

Philip was one of the first leaders in the early church. He was actually one of the first seven deacons appointed (Acts 6:1-7), back when Paul (who was Saul then) was still persecuting the church. He was leading and evangelizing so much that he later became known as Philip the Evangelist.

In Acts 7, a co-leader of Philip’s, Stephen, was stoned to death for preaching the Word. In the beginning of Acts 8, the church was being persecuted and Saul was “going from house to house” (v. 3) and sending Christians to prison. Many of the leaders had to flee because of this and ended up in different areas. Philip ended up in Samaria. Think about how he must’ve felt! One of his close friends was dead, the church was on its heels, and now here he was in a completely different city. Sounds like an easy time to give up to me. However, he did quite the opposite. Acts 8: 4-7 says,

4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

Wow! Philip boldly went out there, told people about Jesus, and received an incredible response to the gospel. Instead of being afraid, he stepped out in faith and was rewarded with a ton of fruit. End of the story, right? Nope. Just a few verses later, Philip is asked to go to another city. Acts 8: 26,

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.

Okay, so let me get this straight. Philip had already been run out of one town but then faithfully recovered in a tremendous fashion. People were coming to the Lord left and right. Success! Then God says to leave? And to go- where exactly? Up some desert road? In the preceding verse, Peter and John get to go back to Jerusalem. But now Philip is stuck in some small town ministry. Here’s how Howard Hendricks puts it:

“It would be as if I were preaching in Houston with the Billy Graham team, and folks are coming to Christ and the Spirit is at work and we’re turning the city upside down with the gospel. Then one evening, the Lord says to me, “Hendricks, get on a bus, and head to West Texas. I’ll tell you when to get off.” You know, I’d sort of feel demoted. Here’s all this exciting stuff going on in the big city, and I get sent to the minors. But not Philip. He obeyed, and the Spirit brought him to an official from Ethiopia. He led the man to Christ, and the gospel spread to Africa” (Living by the Book, 166).

That’s right. Even though Philip had absolutely no idea where God was sending him or why He was sending him there, he listened. And then he ended up leading an important Ethiopian man to Christ who then took the message back to his country. The passage is wonderful and totally worth including here:

Acts 8:26-38-

 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official… This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” [37]38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 

Long story short, Philip ended up leading this man to Christ all because God sent him away from the busy, booming ministry in Samaria and instead up to some dirt road. As Hendricks said, it would’ve been incredibly easy for Philip to feel demoted and not really give whatever God had in mind a real shot. Instead, since he did, some truly astonishing things happened.

Similarly, the question for us becomes, “What does God have in store for us in this season?” Is it possible that He has something bigger in mind if we just open up our eyes enough to see it? Of course this would involve a willingness to get on God’s page and listen, like Philip.

I know for myself it has been easy to feel like this is an “off” time and I can kind of just pick ministry back up once this season is over. I have to wonder, though, if I do that what all I’ll miss. Philip could’ve seen his time on the old desert road as an “off time” where he was demoted to doing the mundane. He didn’t, thankfully, and hopefully we don’t either.

Fight the Feelings!

I’m lazy. Yep, have got to start off just throwing it out there. It’s no real surprise to those who know me, it’s not one of the universes best kept secrets or anything like that. I just don’t like doing things all the time. Now don’t get my wrong, there are times when I have all the energy in the world and am ready to go on an all night adventure, or hit up sheetz at 1am with my friends for a late night snack. Now in those moments you couldn’t stop me with a freight train, when I want to go I GO. The issue is however, those moments are not all the time and lately I have found them few and far between.

Recently I find myself repeating the Phleg motto with the same enthusiasm as Spongebob did when Plankton won him in a poker game

“Nah I don’t really feeeeeeel like it”

If I was being honest with you I would say that 85% of the time I really don’t feel like doing much. Luckily this is a blog and I can choose to lie and say I only don’t feel like doing things 50% of the time. Except for the fact that I already told you it was realistically 85%, I could go back and erase it but like I said in the beginning I’m lazy.

Lately I have been thinking about our feelings. What they’re good for, and probably more importantly when we’re following Christ, what they aren’t good for. For example, if I can trust my feelings to guide my daily schedule then you can trust I will not get out of bed until 1pm, I will then lay on a couch for nine hours watching tv, and will then get food delivered to me. The point here being that our feelings are not always the best guide.

Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Our hearts are messed up, its a true statement and yet we live in this culture that is always telling us to “Follow your heart” and what that looks like is following our feelings. If you feel like you have a shot to make it big in Hollywood you go, don’t let a silly little thing like a son to raise hold you back. Oh, you love that girl, well why didn’t you say so, of course you can leave your wife, it’d be more messed up not to leave. The path our heart takes us on leaves a trail of pain and destruction everywhere we go.

When I think of biblical feeling followers the first person that comes to mind is Moses, the man killed an Egyptian in a moment of anger and his life changed forever. Moses ran away and had to hide from his adoptive grandfather until the man died all because he followed his feelings. Now here’s the thing, Moses thought he was doing what was right, helping his fellow Israelite fight against the big bad slave driver. Moses had the right idea, he knew the slavery of his people was wrong, but he was doing things his own way, not the lords way.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding

God wanted justice for his people as well, in fact he even told Abraham he would free his people 400 years before they even were enslaved. God had a plan, and what was amazing about that plan was that included using an 80 year old man who had already tried it and failed his way (Eventually I plan to write a blog on how God uses the underdogs, but that’s for another time).

So God speaks to Moses in the form of a burning bush, and gives him his big chance to march back into Egypt and free his people and what does Moses say?

“Nah I don’t really feeeeeeeeeeeeel like it”

More specifically, Moses thinks he cannot do it, he feels like he is not smart enough, strong enough, not a good enough speaker. Now the fact is that he’s right, here in this instance his feelings are spot on, he does not have the ability to do this.

You see our feelings do have their use, they tell us things, we feel sad when someone dies because we know its unnatural and goes against Gods original plan for us. We feel angry when we or someone we care about has some sort of right violated. We feel happy when we enjoy some of the amazing things God has graced us with. Feelings do have their place. Moses is feeling weak and powerless and scared, and if he had continued to follow these feelings then none of us would be where we are right now. Its a good thing Moses had feelings because they told him that he was not enough, and that means he needs someone else’s help.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Moses had his feelings and threw them at the lords feet and despite how he felt in his insecurity and weakness, he went forward and relied on the lords power.

So Moses didn’t follow his feelings, he followed the lord, he followed the knowledge and the reassurance that God would without a doubt, succeed in his mission.

Moses didn’t follow his feelings, he followed the truth.

The truth is that God is the creator of the universe and knows what is best for us. The truth is that God has a plan and has made that plan known for thousands of years. The truth is that, what we know of God always trumps what we are feeling in the moment.

But I know its not always that easy.

It can be so hard to focus on what we know when we so strongly are experiencing what we feel. It is something I battle very often. I feel like my friends don’t care for me, I feel alone and unloved, I feel like God isn’t there. In the moments I feel like that, it can be so hard to focus on what it true. Really really really hard…but…it gets easier.

The more I grow with Christ, meditate on his word, and above all the more I talk to him, the easier it is to live out what he calls me to do. Especially when I do these things when I don’t feel like it. When I feel unloved and alone I talk to God because despite how I feel, I know he’s there. I know he cares for me

1 Peter 5:7 “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

See, told you. When we are willing to take our feelings and put them aside we can see what is true. The more we focus on what is true, the easier it is to not live in our feelings. Let me tell you, when we are able to start putting your feelings on the back burner, you experience such a beautiful freedom. You no longer feel like a slave to your emotions, you still feel these things, but you know that they do not take precedence over what is true.

Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Paul starts with what is true for a reason, he knows the truth takes precedence over all else. Paul says in that Philippians verse that when we think about these things we get the “peace of God”, when we are following our feelings we do not get peace, we get confusion.

So what does it look like to follow the truth? When we follow the truth, it means we take action. What action are we called to take?

John 13:34 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”

We are following the truth when we live out this commandment, we go and love others. The best way to get outside of ourselves is by getting into the life of someone else, and when we do that is when we learn one of Gods little rewards for us. When we start going out and loving others, we stop feeling so bad, in fact we start to feel pretty great.

Feelings follow actions. I think God put that little cheat code in there for us and I thank him that he did. When we take the action of loving even when we don’t want to, our feelings often follow and we feel better because we were able to focus on someone else and give them love.

This isn’t going to happen overnight, its not going to happen every time we’re upset. We will experience times when we just won’t be able to fight off the feelings and we sit and need someone to listen to us for a bit, and that’s okay when that happens, but in those moments we need to be able to see what are our feelings and what is the truth.

Just to wrap up here, I really encourage people reading this to think how we can encourage our people to live in the truth and not just follow our feelings all the time. I have seen some of my friends really grow in this area over the last few months and it has been so amazing to see them talk about their feelings but still be able to say they know what is true and they want to focus on that.

So in conclusion:

  1. Feelings: Great indicators, terrible guides
  2. Be free from the chains of our feelings

John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In the Zone

Welcome to my blog! I plan on writing some of my convictions and thoughts on here over what the lord is showing me recently. Thanks for checking it out!

A “Rocky” Easter

Rockwell Dam during its construction more than 100 years ago.

The Rockwell Dam. Back in the day, families used to walk up to the dam and fish in it freely! Now, Lake Rockwell and the land surrounding it, is bordered by barbed wire fences and thermal cameras. The Rockwell Dam is below the lake and turns into the Cuyahoga river (which flows through Kent). For those that don’t know, Lake Rockwell serves as the city of Akron’s water supply. There is posted signs down river from the dam saying the area is off-limits to boaters, and obviously pedestrians walking. Years ago, the official ODNR website did not have this section off limits to boaters. More recently they have stated it is. However, under federal law, the water below the dam has become a “navigable body of water”. In other words, no one, not even the city of Akron (Who owns Lake Rockwell) can own the Cuyahoga river unless it is dammed and the bottom of the body of water is fully on their land. This does mean that they own the land surrounding the dam waters and the river bed below the water. So, as long as anyone is boating and does not go on land or dock their boat, they are legal. With that being said, the water treatment plant still does not like people being there…

Over the years, my friends and I have had a significant amount of luck fishing there. The water is teeming with fish at times. We’ve caught Northern pike, largemouth bass. smallmouth bass, perch, white bass, and even some of the fattest channel catfish I’ve ever seen.


On Easter morning 4/21/19, Shane and I decided to take a trip to the dam. The water was flowing fast and high that day. The water was a bitter 50 degrees F. Normal kayak trips on the Cuyahoga are usually good around 300 cfs (rate of water flow) and that day, it was around 1300 cfs. This was not ideal for a calm morning of fishing. Shane and I approached the dam in our kayaks and began fishing. The water was rough and also very murky/muddy. We weren’t having a whole lot of luck until Shane hooked into a smaller sized pike. Not long after that, I noticed Shane had gotten a snag near the right side of the dam. Most of the dam is a “spillway” style dam but the right side has a large pump-house that runs water through it and pumped out below. It used to be used to generate electricity.

Me 5 years ago fishing right in front of the pump-house (low water conditions)

Shane’s snag happened right in front of this pump-house. The water was so high that you could not see the dark caverns seen in the picture above. The water was “boiling” right in front of the pump-house. I remember looking over to Shane and noticing he had a snag. I went back to fishing as I normally do when someone gets a snag. I figured he would be able to get it out. Then the thought was weighing on me for some reason, “You should go see if Shane needs help”. I really believe this was the Lord giving me instruction as you will see. I paddled over to Shane to see what was up. He was badly snagged on something and it looked like he would need to break off the line. The next part happened very quickly. I remember Shane’s kayak starting to get very close to the boil near the pump-house. At one point I yelled “Put the pole down, BACK-OUT!” It was too late. I watched helplessly as one of my best friend’s kayak capsized. 2 seconds later, I saw Shane frantically try to grab the kayak, attempt to swim out of the current, and then get sucked underwater into the pump-house. It was the scariest moment of my life and the very image is haunting to me. I gave a shrill scream, “SHANE!!!

I remember for a second, I froze. It put me in shock. I remember just yelling “NO NO NO NO NO!!”. I don’t remember what all went through my head next, but I remember thinking, “If I don’t do something, Shane will drown”. I paddled up to the dam and was able to remain stable for a bit. I took my fishing pole and shoved it in the water to try to feel around for Shane. I put my hands underwater trying to grab something. Then, in the blink of an eye, my kayak turned, got caught in the boil, and capsized. I went under the water briefly and immediately grabbed for my kayak. By the grace of God, my kayak has drain holes. I was able to put two fingers in one of the holes and prop myself between the kayak and the dam with my other arm and leg. The current was sucking my right leg under the pump-house. It was a nightmare.

Diagram of the pump-house

At this point, some time had passed and I thought Shane was probably dead. I also thought I was going to die. I cried out for help. I was yelling, “GOD HELP ME!” I remember looking over to my kayak to see if I could get on top of the bottom of it. Then I looked back toward the dam and I saw two shoes submerged under-water “hooked” onto the outer lip of the pump-house wall. It was Shane. In a swift movement, I grabbed his shoe with my left hand, leaned on my kayak, and pulled. Shane popped up on my side of the wall. I put my forearm against his chest and held him to the wall. He looked like he had seen a ghost and I’m sure I did as well. I told Shane we had to get shore quickly. The water was extremely cold and we needed to get away from the boiling water. I ended up throwing shane forward with my left hand and he was able to swim out of the current. Then it was my turn. I took a sideways jump off of the dam to try and get out of the current but I ended up getting sucked back toward the dam so I grabbed my kayak again. Then i crawled/swam up the side of my kayak and grabbed a cement ledge and lunged off that toward shore. Shane and I had about 30′ of water to swim to shore. It was the longest and hardest swim of my life. I remember going underwater at times because I could barely stay up. I was exhausted. My legs were kicking so hard that my left boot fell off in the water.

We both finally made it to shore. I was in shock and crying. Shane was saying, “THANK YOU GOD!” I felt a rush of emotion and gratefulness. All the people’s faces that I love were flying in my head. God saved our asses for sure. I ended up dialing 911 becuase I could barely breath and I didn’t know what kind of condition we were actually in. Both of our heads were on fire with pain. I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. The cops were able to find us on the side of a road and then the EMTs came soon after that. They got us warm and took us to the emergency room to be evaluated for hypothermia and water in our lungs. Thank God, we only came out of it with some small cuts and bruises once we were warm.

Shane and I both agree that our lives were saved by the Lord. We were stuck in what they call a “drowning machine”. Parts of rivers like this take the lives of people all across the U.S. The Lord decided to intervene that day and give us the strength, timing, and quick thinking to get out. Things could have gone much worse than they did. This week has been very weird. Since the event I have struggled with restless sleep, nightmares, and traumatic flashbacks making it hard to focus at work. At the same time, I feel the presence of the Lord and his power in our lives.

I’m still digesting a lot of my thoughts on the event. Some of them are hard to vocalize to be honest. One thought I have is that, I don’t think I live my life with a healthy fear (respect) for God, day to day. I go about my days thinking about what Jordan’s plans are. I like control and I like to have a say where my life is heading next. On Sunday, I was completely out of control. I faced the realization that life is very fragile, it can be ended quickly, and sometimes, we have no control over that fact. God was so gracious, and he showed Shane and I his power in a real way on Easter Sunday. I have to believe the Lord spared our lives for a good reason. I can’t believe the Lord saved us so that we could live autonomous, selfish lives. I truly believe the Lord will take this near tragedy and use it for good things. I think the Lord is showing me how significant and important relationships are. I often lose sight of that. My prayer for anyone reading this is that, if you know the Lord, don’t disregard what the Lord has given you. Take investing in people seriously and don’t lose heart. You don’t know how long they will be here. If you are reading this and you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I encourage you to investigate him. He wants nothing more than to help you with life. Whether it be relationships, anxiety, not drowning in a river, you name it. God is so loving and he wants good things for you.

One last thing. I’m so grateful for my bro Shane. I’m so excited for his walk with the Lord and to see how the Lord will use him down the road. I’m so grateful the Lord brought us back together as close friends and kept us safe.

To God be the glory!

ONE YEAR LATER:

1 year ago me and Shane OConnell almost lost our lives in the Cuyahoga river. What a year it has been. Shane and I were charged with criminal trespassing (M4), we assume, because we stepped onto Akron property after almost drowning. They never actually gave a bill of particulars because we decided to not go to a full trial. Those cases have been long closed. I don’t want to make this post about the Akron Water supply and how I loathe them. I”ll just say this: I’m grateful that we survived their outdated/unsafe dam that they operate at the base of lake Rockwell in Kent.

They were forced to put a pretty penny into fixing the dam. Unfortunately this was the indirect cause of almost 20 river rescues because they elevated water level to make repairs. (https://www.beaconjournal.com/news/20190625/kent-officials-say-stay-out-of-river-as-akron-floods-cuyahoga-for-dam-repairs?fbclid=IwAR0Ihb278lEnyXszS0-bw9V_qfTEnG9fIy4VS7wBcRr0HetIT2pHZJ793Mo) I hope all of those people are safe. I’ll also say that I am unimpressed with the Akron court system. They pursued us like we had committed murder for fishing at their dam. You wonder why so many kids and young adults stay inside.

Anyways, I’ll never forget that day. It has seriously changed my outlook on life. Jordan Yoerger is most certainly not the invincible mid-twenties man he thought he was. I definitely wear a life jacket whenever I’m on the water! No exceptions! I think we can all fall into the trap of thinking we have life under control and we aren’t at risk of dying. I’ve heard from many young people my age that they just simply aren’t worried about COVID-19 because they are not at risk. While it may be true that the affects may not be as severe, the shear fact that many are dying should arrest us.

Life is so fragile and everyday is such a blessing. The only thing that gave me comfort throughout this painful process of legal issues, lost personal items, lightweight PTSD, etc has been the Lord. He is the first one we were thanking when we got to that shoreline. He is the first one we thanked once we were out of the weeds with the Akron Water Supply. He is such a good God. He is a God of great comfort.

I encourage anyone that may be reading this blog to put your trust in the Living God of the Bible. He wants to give you eternal life after you die and he also wants to give you a great life here on Earth.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
– John 5:24

I’m glad to still be around. I’m looking forward to fishing on the Cuyahoga this year with Sug. I’m looking forward to marrying my gorgeous fiance Beth in September this year. Life is good.

Love,

J