What a fun last couple of days I’ve had. I left Colorado Springs Tuesday night (earlier than expected - there was snow blowing in) to drive back to Cali for Christmas. I stopped in the middle of nowhere Utah for the night, and was in Vegas by 1pm Wednesday afternoon. Now I always seem to get delayed in Vegas on the way to and from Cali - weird how that happens… and had an awesome time doing nothing but eating In-N-Out and goofing off. I even won enough money to pay for the trip and all my Christmas presents, and them some! Sweet!
Wednesday night I’m walking in front the Bellagio and see one of the most disturbing things ever. A group of “Christians” standing in a busy public place with signs saying things to the effect of “Repent or Perish”. I have been known to, uhh, kindly confront these people. Fortunately my loving girlfriend talks me to the way of discretion and I keep walking past them, and then immediately the fountain show at the Bellagio starts. I love this show. It has often brought me to tears it is so beautiful. But tonight the music that they are doing the show to is that of the choir song “Hallelujah”. It’s about Jesus. “King of Kings, Lord of Lords, He will reign forever and ever, hallelujah.” We’re in VEGAS! Sin City! And this is the choice music for the evening! How cool is that? In this year’s season of hundreds of businesses telling their employees to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, the most prestegious hotel and casino in Vegas plays this music on center strip for all to hear and be awed at. I love how reality and truth, even when denied, is still reality and truth.
I am finally in Cali and have had an awesome time catching up with my brother Jared. I love that kid. This should be a fun weekend of catching up.
Jared said something interesting tonight - about how he loves hanging out with me because of our ability to go to a deeper level in conversation. We talk about things that matter rather than the things that are so prevelant in his daily life. This came immediately after I told him the whole story of Shay and I. He talked about how he feels that something is “missing” in his life. I only hope that he sees what I truly have, the eternal hope in Christ, as being the thing that he is missing.
I stole this from Dirk’s blog - it spoke directly to my dislike of demoninations in general - hope you laugh too
Charismatic: Only one. Hands already in the air.
Pentecostals: Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.
Presbyterians: None. Lights will go off and on at predestined times.
Roman Catholic: None. Candles only.
Baptists: At least 15. One to change the light bulb and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.
Episcopalians: Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old bulb was.
Mormons: Five. One man to change the bulb and four wives to tell him how to do it.
Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.
Methodists: Undetermined. Whether your light bulb is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb or tulip bulb. A church-wide lighting service is planned for Sunday. Bring a bulb of your choice and a covered dish.
Nazarene: Six. One woman to replace the bulb while five men review the church lighting policy.
Lutherans: None. Lutherans don’t believe in change.
Amish: What’s a light bulb?
What a sweet night! The students, Leslyn, and I went to “The Lord’s Dinner”, a hot meal prepared for people in need on the west side of the Springs. It is run by a network of churches on the west side, each one taking turns doing all the logistical and prep work for the night. It is the only hot meal prepared on the west side on Sunday nights. Here are a few of the awesome things I saw and heard tonight.
I saw needs being met
Students active in ministry
Students ministering to each other - this one made me cry. One of my younger boys is going through a tough time right now - his sister is being shipped off to Florida in a sucky custody situation. One of my older boys and a solid leader walks up behind him and wraps his arms around the younger boy. The younger boy’s eyes closed, he put his hand on the older boy’s arms, and they hugged for about 20 seconds. I had to sneak around the corner - it was beautiful.
I saw people with nothing getting excited about revival.
The pastor of the group walks up to me and says, “You’ve got a good smile. I can tell you know the Lord” (smile has been helped by recent events of course…
I saw homeless people serving each other.
Best one - in a room w/140 people, the happiest and most joyful guy in the room, gets up, starts singing, people around him join in… more tear moments… and the guy is blind. Walking stick and all.
God is good. Sweet. Amazing. Awesome. INCREDIBLE!!!
BLAH! Soooo much to write about. I think I’ll start with a funny story.
Last night we had a lock in at the church. 16 kids, Leslyn (female lead) and myself. Around midnight we started a game of sardines, which is basically reverse hide and seek in the dark. Someone goes and hides, and when you find them, you hide with them - last person to find them is it.
So there’s a bunch of high school students running around a pitch black church in the middle of a saturday night. On the second round, one of my girls decide to hide in the elevator. I discover them with when there’s 11 kids in the elevator. I press the elevator button. Nothing happens. I hear voices of teenage panic. Yes, they’re stuck. I’m by myself. I’m thinking, I’m gonna have to call the fire department - visions of youth ministry chaos are flashing through my mind, being “talked to” by the pastor and CE committee… oh goodie. Thankfully, my 6′4″ 260# ogre of a student is in the elevator, forces the door open, and they all get out.
Good. Now I just have a broken elevator to deal with. Crap!
I tried the classic “re-boot”, flipping the breaker and turning it back on. It worked. THANK GOD.
So yesterday was amazing. I woke up at 11am to start running around town preparing for the night. At 7pm we started an event for the entire church - semi-formal, music, dancing, karaeoke, and the usual snacks and drinks involved with these types of events. At 3:15 I was at the church setting up, by 5 all the kids were there, and at 6:45 we were ready to go. The kids did an INCREDIBLE job, completely exceeding my expectations AND desires. And, there was 17 kids at the event, 4 more than we’ve ever had for anything. The night went perfectly, the adults were very impressed, and a good time was had by all.
Now the best part of all this is that I was freaking out leading up to the event. Everything I tried to do either did not work or was only completed with much frustration. Much of the stuff I wanted to see there did not happen. But the event was still almost perfect. There’s only one thing I would have rather have had there, and there is no wasy that was possible.
No matter how much I tried to make the event perfect, I couldn’t. I had to let people do their thing and take control of the event. I only provided the resources necessary and empowered them to succeed - and they did! Talk about a lesson for a control freak…
The best part of all this happened tonight. I was talking with a friend of mine Christian Hill after Pierced tonight. He used to be a youth pastor. He said something like this - “When your students begin ministering to you as the leader, that is the ultimate sign of a healthy ministry.” He continued to talk about how he believes that it is the heart of the leader that inspires this dynamic. WOW. Talk about encouraging! In my quest for success beyond anything numbers and programs this was the best words I could have heard tonight. I only pray that it is true - and not that I am just blessed with a sweet group of students. We are growing, the kids are growing together, the questions they are asking indicate spiritual growth - and unfortunately there is no way to quantify the measure of spiritual growth, ever… but I will take these encouragements and continue to be faithful with what God has entrusted me with.
Next up this week - 64 hours til takeoff. Yesssssssss…
How do I write about something that I don’t know how to write about? To me it feels like describing the sound of silence. You know its there, but for the life of you it cannot be put into words. The experiencing of the never before experienced. Describing something that can only be communicated with a look. And through all this lack of substance fighting off doubts of the authenticity of this reality.
We really are vapors. “Know ye not what may happen on the morrow. For what is your life? It is but a vapor which appears for a moment and then vanishes.” (James 4:14). I have thought often and hard about this struggle we call life - how we fight for control that we can never have. Why do we strain ourselves against the impossible? We can never be in control. Period. I don’t know if that car next to me is going to continue going straight or if it is suddenly going to swerve into my lane, giving me early golden street dancing lessons. And who am I to say that it is early? We live our lives on a house of cards of preconceived ideas based on patterns and lessons we have learned in the past - yet none of them can ever give us a certainty of what will happen… now… or now…
We just don’t know. We can’t know. Yet we continue to struggle, while we *know* that God is in control, and He does so much a better job than we ever can.
I have a friend struggling through an interesting issue right now. In walking with her through this struggle I have thought a lot about the nature of the struggle and how it speaks to such a deeper issue that we all struggle with - the fear of change and the lack of faithfulness that we have in the world and in God as we go through times of change.
Personally I have really begun the classic quarter-life crisis of not being married yet. Friends everywhere are getting married, roomies are getting married, I work at a church full of married people and minors, and I work in a profession where you are expected to be married. I know of many churches that won’t consider you for a youth pastor unless you are married. I recently met with a youth pastor from down the street who after finding out I am single said, “Get married as soon as possible.” Gee, thanks… excuse me while I send off mail-order to Russia. Are you freaking kidding me?
In the midst of all this though I definitely feel the struggle. I want to be married. But more importantly I want it to be right. Often this is a struggle for me… I go somewhere like Youth Specialties wondering if I am going to meet my wife there and let it be a distraction to me. My mentor said something to me that was profound and helpful all at the same time. “Do you believe that God is in control, and that He is faithful to provide what you need when you need it?”
Hmmm. I do believe that. Why is it so hard to act on it?
So, getting back to what inspired this post. Friend of mine is in a similar place. But she found what she’s been looking for, waiting for, not settling for. And when the cards began to fall and talk proceeded to action, she freaked out. Why? Cause it was too right. Because all those fears we humans have manifested themselves. What if I have to move? What if it is right, perfect, and everything I have ever hoped for? Do I deserve that? Isn’t this something that I am always seeing happen to other people but could never happen to me?
I totally understand.
We are very good at realizing that life sucks so often. We compare what we know about ourselves with what we don’t know about others and leave disappointed and discouraged. We’re afraid of being broken out of our comfort zones even if the change is so much better. It reminds me of the whole story about cows. If you open the gates, they won’t leave, and if they do, they come back. Or the story of the old man from Shawshank Redemption, when freed from prison committed suicide - because he was comfortable in a lifestyle that he never wanted. We often get overwhelmed with the blessings given to us, because they are too perfect, and we believe that we don’t deserve them.
God wants to bless us abundantly. I sometimes wonder how much of His blessings I miss because I won’t accept them. We are princes and princesses in the Kingdom of God. I pray that I will start to act like one.