Friday, May 31, 2013

Good With an Eye Towards Better


The room is quiet now.

It was filled just a few moments ago with screaming kids. They were happy screams...mostly. They had been running, jumping, kicking balloons and eating ice cream. But now the room sits empty and quiet, with very little evidence that a tiny, elementary-force tornado had just swept through.

So we ended another school year for our midweek children's ministry. It was a good year. They learned a lot. We memorized the Old Testament books, with motions. We memorized a few key verses to go along with our teaching themes. We engaged in several service projects throughout the year. We saw many new faces throughout the year.

It was a good year. But if I'm honest with myself....

I wish I hadn't felt so drained at times and looked towards midweek with dread.
I wish we had found more adults to build relationships with kids.
I wish I had learned more names than I did.

Like a sports team that falls just short of winning the championship, I already look towards next year. This was a good year, but I believe we can see an even better year next year. This is the free agency season, where new recruits can be picked up, a tweaked game plan can be envisioned and some focused training can lead to high hopes for next year.

The room is quiet now, but soon the happy noise will return.

And I can't wait.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How Would Jesus Teach Teens

Jesus was like a youth pastor. Don't believe me? I'm not alone in my thinking. Greg Steir, of Dare2Share Ministries, has often used Matthew 17:27 as his proof text. This is where Jesus sends Peter to get a fish, open its mouth and take the coin out to use for the Temple tax for Jesus and Peter.

The idea is that only men 20 years and older had to pay the Temple tax, so the rest of the disciples must have been teenagers. Thus, Jesus was the first youth pastor. As Greg continues, Jesus had one adult volunteer (in Pete) and 11 teens in his group, one of whom was a problem teen. We've all got one of those.

But Jesus also dealt with randomness. Ask any youth pastor how many times he has been interrupted mid-sentence so some kid can ask to go to the bathroom. I was once to the 'altar call' part of my talk when some kid asked how soon I would be done. Yes, I could definitely feel the Spirit moving that night.

But it's Luke 11 where Jesus is talking and some random lady shouts out, 'God bless your mama.' That's not a direct quote from the Greek, but Jesus was talking about satan's kingdom being divided and how demons work. Out of nowhere, BAM, a woman just blurts out randomness.

Another time, in Luke 12:13, in the middle of Jesus teaching, some guy asks him to tell his brother to share. Jesus was talking about some pretty good stuff, including identity and choosing to follow God. But all this guy can think about is getting his share of the toys from his brother.

I could be talking about God's grace and some teen will interrupt to ask about sex. Of course, I could be talking about a lot of things and teen guys will be thinking about sex. Then again, when I am talking about sex and dating and relationships, then they'll ask about Revelation and the End Times.

The key to speaking with teens, or apparently anyone even listening to Jesus' sermons, was to use their questions as a segue to getting back on topic.

When Jesus was interrupted by the woman declaring how blessed His mother was, He was smooth as silk. He reminded everyone that people are blessed when they listen to Him. Then He went on saying stuff they should listen to.

When the brother interrupted Jesus to demand his share of the inheritance, Jesus asked simply why He was being asked. Then, POW, a sermonette on greed.

If I'm talking about the importance of Bible study and some guy asks about sex, asking how far is too far, my segue response is to say, 'That's a very good question. If you were studying the Bible, you'd know what Jesus said about that. You'd have also noticed Song of Songs in the OT and realized marriage is going to be fun.'

Voila! Another guy studying his Bible.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Features


For those who follow me on social media and read the daily minutiae of my life, you might recall my family having some...uhh....interesting adventures with our vehicles as of late. I won't retell those here, but for the sake of everyone being on the same page, know that we had to send our van to the eternal destination of all vehicles once a youth worker has owned them for more than 15 minutes. 

The price to fix it was going to equal the price we paid for it. So, voila, we became a 1-vehicle family. Unless you count my scooter. In that case we are a 1 & 1/4 vehicle family. If only I could add a side-car to the scooter, it would be so much more sensible. 

All of this was met by cool and calm in our family. There was only one minor problem. I had two separate meetings out of town. This required renting a car. The rental place asked what I desired. I told them the cheapest thing they had would suffice. Extra features would not be necessary. I'm a simple guy with simple tastes, right?

Both cars were decidedly of the save-on-fuel variety. The makes and models don't matter as much, because one had features and the other....not.

The first rental car, right on the center of the dash, said it was powered by Microsoft. This made me feel good, because in the event of a crash, all I would have to do is simply close all the windows and reopen them. If something wasnn't working right, I could simply restart the whole thing, right? 

Aside from my confidence of the car to work, it was a good ride. Besides the normal features, it provided an automatic sync to my iPod and a great sound system. Plus, it provided a smooth and comfortable ride. 

The very next week, I drove a rental car made by the other guy. This car was shaped like something from the 80's, had a funky smell and did not provide anything but the most basic of car-bilities. Yes, I had said I only needed it to drive one day. But I had become accustomed to the features of the other car. 

This second car made me feel bad, and I am not referring to the back pain it caused me. I felt bad because anytime I drove faster than 45 mph, it sounded like I was working the hamsters too hard. Yes, I got from point A to point B (and back again), but what happened to everything that made me comfortable?

My first rental car had some nice features. And if we're honest with ourselves, we are all about the features. The car doesn't need to go from 0 to 60 in less time than it takes to search for a silly YouTube video, but doesn't it make you feel better knowing it can? We don't need a DVD player to unfold from the ceiling, but it sure does make those long trips easier. People traversed the U.S. without A/C in their covered wagons, but who wants to live like that? 

We like features. This may be silliness when discussing what you want in a vehicle, but this becomes dangerous with our faith. Our desire for features tends to divide when all we need is Jesus. I didn't need features. I simply needed a car. 

When it comes to our faith, we don't need smoke and lights. We need Jesus. Your church offers a juggler for serving communion? I could see where that might be fun. Your greeters offer moist towelettes for wiping off your hands? Nice touch, though I would argue a warm wash cloth might impress me more. Does your church offer lasers and motion backgrounds while experiencing the rock-n-worship? I'm all for that!

My argument isn't against all the features. I may even try to introduce some of these. My case is for Christ. Jesus is all we need! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Insignificance

All gave some. Some gave all.

If you're looking for one of those heart-breaking, tear-jerking stories of veterans and joyful reunions, you will need to go somewhere else. Those make for great stories. If you find a good one, send it my way.

But that's not normal fare around here. A lot of my stories reveal the less significant, though that does not make them less important.

That might never be more true than today. Memorial Day, of course, is an opportunity to honor our veterans as well as our current service men and women. This group would include my dad.

My dad served in the Vietnam War. It was long before I was born, the oldest to my parents. My dad did not come back with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He did not wake up with nightmares. He was never absent due to flashbacks. He was a good dad.

You can imagine how cool it was for a young boy to hear his dad was G.I. Joe. So I asked details. It turns out that my dad was a mechanic. Things break down in Vietnam too, I guess. Word on the street is that he ever fired his weapon.

So, like I said, no drama here. My dad served his country. He came back. He served his family. He served Jesus. There is a simple beauty to be found in insignificance.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Upside Down is not Upside Wrong

I ran across this. I had heard of it before, but never gave it much thought. I think we, and especially people who say they believe God loves everyone, should give this much thought.

Here's the article.

Here's a picture to look at.

Here's where I say Woo!!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Unintended Timing


It may be coincidental, but my daily reading had me read John 3 rout after reading Luke 3. It also had me reading Matthew 3 (see yesterday's post).

Do you remember what happened in John 3? A Pharisee comes to Jesus about salvation. It was a pretty big deal. The Pharisees were not the biggest fans of Jesus. You could say Jesus kind of threatened their deal. But John 3 is also a big deal because of that popular little verse it houses. Yeah, that one. About God loving the world and sending Jesus.

Those words were world changing. And not just for Nicodemus. With one line, Jesus answers all of the biggest questions the world has.

Yes, God loves everyone.
Yes, God knows about sin and He sent Someone to do something about it. 
Yes, you can get in the most incredible deal you will ever see anywhere....ever.

With one line, Jesus exploded the mind of an old teacher of the Law. With one line, Jesus rocked the world forever. 

It is what Jesus intended to do. But...

I kind of think Nicodemus might have been there as a follow-up to a conversation he didn't intend to have. This convo was a one direction heated lob of warnings that came from Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist. 

See, I read Matthew 3, Luke 3 and John 3 all on the same morning. I don't know about the timing of all the events, but Luke 3 records John the Baptist's shouts at the Pharisees who came out to hear him. The way I read it, John the Baptist might have left disheartened that day. That is, if John was the kind of guy to care what others thought.

If John did care, he would have left that day not seeing any Pharisees respond to his....er....loving rebuke. But what he could not have known is that one of those Pharisees would go and talk to Jesus at another time. 

I don't know if Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees who heard John the Baptist's words,.... but he could have been. It's a reminder to me to care less about the fruit I personally have a hand in and more about what God is doing in the long haul. 

Because, just maybe someone who hears the truth will end up seeking out The Man Himself to ask the questions that are really on his heart. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Unintended Audiences


Luke, of third Gospel of the New Testament fame, was also a doctor. Compared to many doctors of today, this guy had quite the bedside manner. You can see it in the way he writes. 

I'm towards the beginning of a Bible reading plan that will take me through all four Gospels in 30 days. That, of course, is not counting the days I skip, since I am quite the undisciplined and sweaty Philistine. Actually, I'm only sweating because the air conditioner repairman hasn't shown up yet, but that's another blog post. 

The great thing about reading all four Gospels at the same time, besides getting a big helping of Jesus, is comparing the writers when they share the same stories. Take, for example, this story of John the Baptist in Luke 3. When Matthew, that cheating tax collector, shares the same story, he wastes no time in throwing the Pharisees and Sadducees under the bus. Then he snickers while he recalls what John the Baptist says to them. 

But not Doctor Luke. He simply refers to them as 'the crowds'. Everybody knows it's easier to say bad things about them when we generalize and don't make it overly obvious who we're talking about. So what did John the Baptist say. 

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” ~Luke 3:7-9

John the Baptist is addressing the Pharisees and Sadducees but they are not the ones who respond.

The crowd responds.

10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?”11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

The tax collectors respond.

12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”
 
The soldiers respond.

14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers.
John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”

In case you're wondering, tax collectors and soldiers were not favorably looked upon by the Jewish people. They kind of had a reputation for being cheaters. And the crowd that asked what they should do? We can be fairly certain it wasn't the religious leaders asking that question. For they assumed they already knew what to do. And it didn't include taking advice from wild-haired freaks with no fashion sense like John the Baptist. 

Besides avoiding religious leaders who are way too confident about themselves, what can we learn from this? Well, each follower of Jesus has a mission and a ministry. John the Baptist was doing what John the Baptist was supposed to be doing. He ate locusts. He rocked the leather. And he called the truth out in the wilderness. 

He didn't advertise for the crowds. He didn't entertain for the masses. 

It won't always work like we planned. But we should still do what we're supposed to be doing, because people are watching. They might not be the audiences we intended, but they might have questions. It's our calling to be available to answer those questions. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unintended Outcomes


Do you know what would be really super crazy for a regular blogger to do mid-May? Considering that summer just decided to show up two weeks after the last snow flurries hit the ground, this is so stupid. 

But I'm gonna do it. 

Because. I'm. Stupid.....Crazy!

I'm going to talk about the Christmas story. I don't know how to get around this, other than write something and save it for 7 months. This is really a problem with starting a Gospel reading plan in May. Sure, I could have skipped the early chapters, but the end happened at Easter, so how much of this reading plan can I skip, based on our holiday schedule. 

I digress.

I was reading about the wise men and their jaunt to chase a star. It is interesting, from Matthew 2, that the wise men talk with Herod and the Jewish leaders about where Jesus will be born. We can give Herod a pass from what I am about to say, because he was immediately and obviously threatened. I get that. 

But it says the Jewish leaders were in the audience. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't these the guys who are descendants of the guys who have been looking for a Messiah for....um.....a long time? I understand that Herod would be a threat, but if you hear about the King who is going to bring freedom, wouldn't you want to check that out? I understand their expectations of a Messiah were different from what Jesus delivered, but they don't know that yet. 

All we see is them sit around and wait to see what happens. 

And a few verses later some lowly shepherds are told.

The shepherds go.
The wise men went.
Even Herod acts upon this information.

But the Jewish leaders who have supposedly been waiting and looking for a Messiah, did not go. They seem to be so lost in the status quo that they forgot heir entire purpose. Astounding.

I pray that when I hear of God acting in this world, I won't be so stuck with what I am busy doing to check it out. I hope that I don't become so busy in my corner of the world that I forget to see what God is doing in the hearts of people. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Do You Have Any Idea What Cool Looks Like?


The weather is warming up again. And perhaps it is the thick layers of ice that cause me to forget, but it's this time of year that makes me ready to ride again. To feel the sweet freedom that can only be felt at 25-35 mph while driving my hog. My 50cc's of raw power. 
You might ask why. I'm here to answer your questions.

Why a scooter? 

Good question. After all, until recently I had two other vehicle choices. But neither of them get 140 miles to the gallon. Tell me again about your smart cars and your Nissan Versa, neither one of which do you look better in. Sure, there are high-end motorized wheelchairs that might pass me from time to time, but where will they be when the battery runs out?  

Why a helmet?

Because I don't listen to my wife about a good many things. But she's right about this. Even at 30 mph, bad things can happen. A car travelling faster could hit me. A random deer could come out at the deer crossing sign. 

Because when I die, I want it to be so fantastic that people come up to my grieving wife and say, "Wow, that guy knew how to make an exit!" Any eulogy that includes mention of a scooter will only elicit snickers from the crowd, not awe. 

Why a helmet with flames?

Because if you're going to wear a helmet while riding a scooter, you may as well have a sense of humor about yourself.

Why don't you look at other drivers?

I am on a scooter. I know what they assume. I don't need that kind of judgment.

Do you wave at other scooter drivers?

For several reasons, no. First of all, two hands on the handles, sir. We are travelling at high speeds.

Secondly, the last time I looked in the eyes of a fellow scooter rider, he smirked. I couldn't tell if he was smirking because he knew how much gas we were saving. Or because he realized there was another adult male driving around one of these tickets to freedom, as long as freedom didn't go too fast. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rick Nier Says Woo, Even to People Who Don't Need It

Seth Godin has a much bigger platform than he probably knows what to do with. He doesn't need any endorsements from me. But I like a lot of what he has to say. At the very least, it makes me pause and consider.

So for that, I will link you forward to a recent post that made me consider...

Here you go.

Woo!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Awk-ward!


We act weird around people who are different than us. As much as I am a fan of the awkward, I think we have to work on this. 

If someone is blind, we tend to talk slower. Why would we do that? Because we feel awkward?
If someone is of a different nationality, we have become so dangerously politically correct that we mumble our way through any conversation. I'm all for being careful about what we say, but it can hinder as well.
If someone is missing a limb, I guarantee we will have a staring contest, while attempting to not stare. 

Guess what, they know they are missing a limb!

I will say this; it's good to know it's not a new problem. Allow me to set up the story from Luke 1. Zechariah and Elizabeth are about to play the New Testament version of Abraham and Sarah and have a baby. I imagine this means that Elizabeth will be changing two sets of diapers. 

But when the angel Gabriel reveals to big news, ending with, 'Ta-daaaaa!', Zechariah is in disbelief. Gabriel is a bit put off and tells Zechariah he won't be talking again until the boy is born. This means Zechariah instantly joins the world of the handicapped. He can't talk. 

Let me introduce you to the awkward.

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. ~Luke 1:62-64.

Did you see it? The other people made signs to Zechariah. Why? Because they're stupid, obviously! Apparently they believed since Zechariah couldn't talk, he wouldn't be able to understand them talking either. If I had been ol' Zechariah, I might have taken that tablet and smacked a few of them upside the head. Or I might have taken the time to write out my sarcasm, asking them why they were gesturing like uneducated Philistines. 

Another great example of the people who follow God not always getting it right. At least Zechariah's son was someone that didn't make people feel uncomfortable. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Parenting Done Right


Not everything my children do pleases me. Take, for example, their choices of sport. Our oldest daughter has decided that track would be fun. This wouldn't have been my choice for a couple of reasons. First, it's like NASCAR. I don't know how so many people can be enthralled with a bunch of drivers turning left for four hours. Track is sort of like NASCAR, only slower...much......much.........s    l   o   w   e    r. 

Second, it's an outdoor sport in the spring of northern Indiana. This, of course, means it could be winter weather and you'll need your coat and a blanket. Or it could be spring like, which means you'll need an umbrella. Either way, it only adds to the torture enjoyment of the event.

Our son then chose soccer. Guess when this take place? That's right, the Spring. Guess where? Outside in an area of town that is so flat that when wind gusts begin in Kansas, they reach us in Indiana and just keep swirling around. Good times!

The only indoor sport chosen so far has been cheer leading. What can I say about cheer leading? When I didn't realize my daughter was serious, I told her cheer leading was for girls who couldn't actually compete in the sport. What can I say, I'm very nurturing as a dad. 

But sports do give us many teachable moments with our kids. Sportsmanship is not something that comes naturally, as evidenced by the angry parents yelling at the referees officiating elementary-age sporting events. Ummmm...yeah.
Recently, after watching my daughter come in dead last at her track meet, I met up with her, expecting to console her after a tough loss. She came running up to me and exclaimed, "That...was....AWESOME!" 

So you're taking it well?

She explained to me how her little track mind worked and why it was awesome. I didn't argue. 

We've repeatedly taught our kids that the goal with games and sports is to have fun, no matter whether you win or lose. Should it surprise me that they have believed us? She was having fun. It didn't matter that all she physically saw was the backs of the others girls heads. What she experienced was the joy of running and the positive lessons she could take from this for the next meet.

Which will be outside in the Indiana Spring, of course. 

So what can I learn from all of this? Well, despite how I feel sometimes, my children are listening. They are watching and learning what I am teaching them. So I need to persevere and keep teaching them. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Christianish

Years ago I read what I still deem as the funniest book I have ever read, Flashbang by Mark Steele. The subtitle and the subject matter was about how to get over yourself. I've read it a few times in the past several years, partly because of its humor but mostly because of my constant need for a reminder to get over myself.

I say all that so you know that when I see a book by Mark Steele, I grab it...immediately. Such was the case when I saw Christianish. I saw the author and knew this book would get the rare move up to the top of the stack.
The book, in a nutshell, asks Christians to consider that perhaps we are the problem. Perhaps we've been getting it wrong all along.

Mark delivers his usual style of great story-telling, all the while leaving the reader wondering how so many terrifically crazy things can happen to one family in a lifetime. But what he brings in this book is a big can of take-a-good-look-at-your-life-and-stop-making-excuses. For those who have read Mark's first couple of books, expect this one to hit a bit harder. I wasn't expecting it, but it was all stuff that I (and we) need to hear.

Allow me to whet your whistle with a few quotes...

On witnessing...

It is our mandate as true Christians to help all men and women discover the deep reality of who Jesus is. Absorb this. It is not only our responsibility to pass on facts. It is our responsibility to help those facts become immersed into lifestyle.

On grace and sin...
We must refuse to waste grace as a coupon to remain stuck in our sinful cycles. We should instead invite Christ to use His grace as a microscope so that we can seek true healing from our obvious sins, and then daily dig deeper into the more subtle core issues that continue to kill us. We must thank God daily, not merely in our prayers, but in our eradication of the things we may like, but He hates.

On our significance...
Funny. I always thought my attempts at godliness wouldn’t make all that much difference to the world. In light of the mammoth sunshine of Christ, I was at best a tiny blip of a moon. Miniature and reflective. Barely a dust mite in light of that massive star. Unfortunately that tiny moon is capable of blocking out the light of the sun almost entirely. It’s called an eclipse, and it is what happens when the vastly smaller moon is hovering too close to the observer and in front of the sunlight. Yes, most nights we moons reflect the light, claiming its grandeur as our own—but occasionally, through a sudden collision of random happenstance, we make the sun seem to completely disappear.
Trust me when I say that this is one that should be read, applied, read over with a group and applied once more.

Friday, May 10, 2013

This is Going to Take Some Work


I have a confession. 
I don't always practice what I preach. That's kind of awkward for me to say, being a preacher and all. I mean, we say that to everyone, even people who are not, in fact, preachers. But me?

I have a license. It's that dangerous. Yeah, I know...you're kind of in awe right now. Not everyone is cut out to wear the cloth. Of course, I don't actually have any special cloth or holy underwear or anything like that. 

But I am stalling from actually finishing this confession. After all, if I leave it vague, you might think I rolled my eyes when someone cut me off in traffic. You probably struggle not to roll your eyes too, but not me. I have that well under control. In fact, I never roll my eyes when stupid, incompetent, meat-heads..... I've digressed again. 

I don't always practice what I preach. On this blog, I say, over and again and in many different ways, that life is not about me. In fact, I encourage you in your unawareness of who I am. I say this is my search for insignificance

But the truth is I say it regularly for a reason. I kind of, sort of, deep down (but on the surface), want to say this to large numbers of people. I'm not complaining about the amount of people who are currently reading. But when you believe you have an important message, you intrinsically want everyone to hear it. 

That in itself, is not really a bad thing. As long, of course, as the focus stays on that which is significant. But here is where I stumbled yesterday. 

I didn't have a post to schedule. And it's been the sort of week where I didn't have any energy to think up something to say. No special rants against inane happenstance, no book reviews, no message from the Lord. But what i thought was....

What if people don't notice me for a day?

Yeah, what if? What if the world kept spinning despite any lack of my sarcastic commentary on life? What if no silliness form my family were reported in this 24-hour news cycle? What if people succumbed to reading one of the million other bloggers out there, all offering wit and wisdom? 

What if I got over myself? What if I searched deeper for insignificance? It appears I have a lot longer way to go. 

This is my search for insignificance. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Getting Through the Week


Every week can't be a great week. I think we can all agree on that. 

After all, most weeks start with Mondays, a weekly reminder that bills must be paid and they won't pay themselves. But since I take Mondays off, don't even get me started on Tuesdays. While everyone else has resigned themselves to the fact that the work week is young, I'm just settling in to the fact that people won't pay me to stay at home. 

Wednesdays are a normally long day where the weekend is still too far off, yet at the same time beginning to dash your hopes of finishing any weekly to-do list. Thursdays get the shaft for no other reason than they aren't Friday. And Friday? Well, Friday is like a long climb up what you assume will be the greatest roller coaster of a weekend ever. But, come to find out, only a kiddie slide was waiting for you after all that anticipation. 

All of that to say, some weeks aren't great. I say this because we have to find the little things in life to get us through these weeks. Some people have beverages of choice. Others have comfort foods. Still others rely on a heavy dose of Facebook. 

What helps me through the rough weeks? Tagless shirts!


Tagless shirts? How can you even ask? Tagless shirts are the fudge topping to an already great dish of ice cream. The ice cream, in this case, would be a comfortable t-shirt. 

My tagless shirts make all my other shirts seem like I am putting on some sort of medieval torture device. I am not being over-dramatic about this. The fact that companies ever felt the need to have a tag with their logo on it is very narcissistic in the first place. See this comfy shirt? You won't ever forget that we made it for you, because we have this extra little square which will stick in the back of your neck all. day. long. 

If it sounds like I am ranting against tags, please don't confuse this. I am praising the passing of whatever legislation needed to happen so the American people could walk around in peace, knowing that the view of our backside would not be marred by a tiny little square at the nape of our neck.

Finally!

Here's to you, rocket-science engineers, who figured out that if print could be done right on the front of a shirt, it could also be done on the inside of the back of the shirt. With this modern marvel of achievement accomplished, I won't have to cry myself to sleep each night of this week. 

What about you? What gets you through the week?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I Want to be a Church Youth Leader


 
You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. ~ 2 Timothy 2:2

I'm certainly not the first who has used this verse from Paul's second letter to Timmy as a personal purpose statement for ministry. 

But it is a verse that I use. 

It reminds me of many things:

  • Whether I realize it or not, I am teaching things. I should make sure it's the message I want to get across. I need to always double down and ensure it's the message of Jesus.
  • I am to be surrounded by others who will back me up on the truth. They do not merely cheer lead whatever feel-good message is out there. They are to confirm the truth.
  • This teaching is supposed to be passed on. These people will (hopefully) be trustworthy. Otherwise, the teaching will be in vain. 
  • The people I pass it on to will, in turn, pass it along to others. 
If you picture this, it's like the age-old pyramid scheme where you buy hundreds of dollars of worthless stuff, all while overestimating your ability to sell this same stuff to other suckers, uhh...friends. Except this is not worthless stuff. It's the Greatest. News. Ever. Oh, and God came up with the pyramid. 
I'm mentioning all of this today for two reasons. 
First, I'm reminded how little this process is about me. Yes, I am a teacher. But the system is in place to keep even the teachers in check. When we consider that teachers plant seeds, others water those seeds and that it is God who actually provides the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6), it shows just how insignificant I am. 
Secondly, I'm very thankful for the 'reliable witnesses' that surround me. I call them youth leaders. In my local ministry we just celebrated a college student who had been helping lead. She was taught by her parents and youth leaders. More recently, she learned from college profs and the...uh....experiences in our youth ministry. 
She leaves now to teach in her own youth ministry. I can only hope there will be reliable witnesses to confirm her teaching and trustworthy people who will be able to pass it on to others. 
It's the goal. It's the calling. And it is still the Greatest. News. Ever. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Best Laid Plans


“As the heavens are higher than the earth,    so are my ways higher than your ways    and my thoughts than your thoughts.    ~Isaiah 55:9

I am sure I have mentioned this verse in my blog before. 

I am positive I have talked with my teens about this verse before. 

I know I have prayed this verse before, reminding both myself and any listeners what I believed. 

And yet....

I have to admit that I struggle with this verse. Not in theory, but in action. Not in thought, but in deed. Not with others, but with myself. Yes, if you read that last line correctly, you'll see I have very little problem seeing God as better than you. It's remembering that God is better than me that is sometimes the problem. 

Again, not in theory. I preach it, I write it, I read it...I believe it. But I'm not sure I always own it. Because I can't explain the fatigue I sometimes feel for the work that needs to be done. If I, and collectively we, were to live this verse out, I have to believe that we would depend so much more on God to tell us what to think. We would rely so much more on God to reveal to us the plan. We would, and there's really no good excuse for why we don't. 

The thing I love about this verse is the description that goes along. It's the comparison that, in reality, only begins to describe the world of difference between our thoughts and God's thoughts. We read it is 'as far as the heavens are above the earth.' 

Let's be honest. It's a long way. I could throw numbers at you, but honestly I'm too lazy to open another browser window to look it up. And besides, you've had numbers thrown at you. You know that it's a long distance between heaven and earth. We can join Belinda Carlisle all we want in wishing heaven was a place on earth, but we know it;s not. 

Heaven is a long way from where we are. Believe it? Now keep in mind that's how much higher God's ways and thoughts are than the best laid plans we have. To quote Robert Burns;

The best laid schemes of mice and menGo often awry,

To quote Solomon;

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. ~Proverbs 19:21

Friday, May 3, 2013

Two Sentence Reviews?

If you follow me regularly at all, you know a few things about me.


  • My kids make for great illustrations, though not always good examples.
  • My own life makes for good sermon fodder, though again, not always the best example.
  • I love reading books and posting the reviews.
  • I am all about youth ministry.
The above list may not be in any order, but another thing you should know about me is that my life pursuit is to take the light, any little that shines my way, and reflect it back to God. Again, I don't always do this perfectly, hence the stories and illustrations.

Along those lines, I try and take moments here and there to share someone else's thoughts and work. Today, I found a post that combines a couple of these loves; books and youth ministry. I am linking you to MarkO's blog post, where he reviews several books at once. How can he accomplish this without writing an entire book himself? Two Sentence Reviews!

Enjoy.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

There's More?


You should have seen my kid's faces when I told them there was a second season to the Scooby Doo series they were addicted to. They'd discovered Season one while we were on vacation and quickly got hooked when they found it on Netflix.

They devoured it, and honestly, it was cleverly written. I could go on describing it, but I think we both know I'm about to spiritualize it. 

I think this hungering for more is what God is looking for from us as well. I think God is honored when we get excited about worshiping Him...again. I think God is honored when we look forward to opening His Word...again. I think God is honored when we encourage a brother or serve a sister...again. 

We may think we know what to expect. Certainly we did with the Scooby-Doo series. The Scooby gang is going to be scared. Scooby will want a snack. They'll solve the mystery. 

We may think we know what to expect. God will be good. Jesus will be the Savior. The Holy Spirit will rock all over the world. 

But, if we keep watching, I believe we'll see something more. The Scooby writers from the 2010 series gave us some relational drama, some season long stories, and some back story that the 1970's Scooby Doo watchers never knew existed. 

If we keep watching, I believe we'll see something more. The Holy Spirit will continue to do His thing. People we never expected to see come to Christ will come to Christ. And there will be some future story, which we only now see in part, that will absolutely blow our minds. 

Yeah, we should be excited about a whole new season, yet to be seen. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We All Want a Scooby Snack


I mentioned yesterday that my kids sailed with me back to my childhood when we discovered Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated. It has been an entertaining jaunt, one I'm glad my kids have had an opportunity to experience. After all, my childhood worked out well for me. (Shout out to my mom!) So if my kids can get the same upbringing I did, they should end up alright as well. Now if I can only convince the police my kids will be fine riding free in the back of a conversion van, their childhood would be complete. 


Anyways, the Scooby-Doo cartoons have recently got me thinking about people and the Church. 

We are creatures of habit. For starters, my Saturday mornings feel better somehow now that I can tune in and see the Mystery Machine tooling around town. But the show itself offers many constants. Honestly, the only thing that changed in the 70's version of Scooby-Doo was the villain, but even then some things stayed very much the same.

  • The mystery was always a person with a mask...
  • ...but the gang was always scared. You'd think they would have eventually caught on.
  • Scooby and Shaggy were always scared and hungry.
  • Velma was always losing her glasses. Seriously, can we just get her some contacts?
  • And Fred and Daphne were always blissfully unaware that they belonged together.
Except for that last one, not much has changed with the newest edition for the Scooby series. The mysteries may have changed but not the fact that it will take half an episode for the gang to use Scooby and Shaggy as bait to catch the bad guys. 

We become habitual in our spiritual lives as well. From wanting to get to our regular pew to being comfortable with when we stand and sit during a worship service, our natural inclination is to do what we have always done. But just as Scooby never seems to get more snacks, we also lack the ability to grow in our faith when we decide to keep on doing the same things we have always done, despite our penchant for wanting better results. 

We can update the script all we want. But until we admit that something is inherently broken in the system and allow God to lead us into lasting change, the seemingly solvable mysteries will continue. Perhaps we should be allowing some teenagers to meddle with our lives. Insert close friends for teenagers and exchange accountability for meddling and we may just lose the mask and solve this mystery. 

That idea is worth a Scooby snack.