Wednesday, March 30, 2005

God Gives You Goosebumps

So far, I have been writing about goofy things that I have witnessed or done. But, sometimes something happens that isn't necessarily funny...but it gives you unspeakable joy. Sometimes, God just shows up in an unexpected way, and all you can do is smile! Let me share with you one such incidence from a few years ago...
Summer camp is (in my opinion) one of the BEST things a Christian can experience. It is longer than a "youth rally", so everyone loosens up after a few days. On the other hand, it doesn't last so long that you are killing each other by the end!
One year at camp, I was blessed to teach a class on "Vision." I challenged the teens to pray all week, asking God to open their eyes to His will. Some of them "got it" and others ordered pizza during my class (true story!) and didn't seem to care at all.
Because of this, my expectations were not high at all when I asked the teens to share their visions at the end of the week. However, I was about to get a pleasant suprise!
One young lady named Stephanie shared that she really wanted to share the Good News with her cousin Brandon. She talked about how she was very close with her cousin, and he went to church, so she did not understand why he had not chosen to follow Christ yet. I thanked her for sharing and encouraged her and the other teens to pray about their visions...asking God to help them come true.
A few weeks later, I was attending a different camp when I heard a familiar voice calling my name. I turned around to see Stephanie, who ran up and gave me a big hug. I could tell she was excited about something.
"Franklin, guess what?!" she said. "You remember how you told us to pray that God would help us accomplish His will in our lives?"
"Well, do you remember I was telling you about my cousin, Brandon?"
"Well, since I don't really know what to say, I asked God to lead someone into Brandon's life that could tell him about Christ and encourage him to be baptized."
"Franklin...God answered my prayer! Brandon is in YOUR cabin!"
As she skipped away, I got goosebumps! God answered her prayer! After a few minutes, I felt the pressure of the situation. "God wants to use ME? What should I say to Brandon?"
I had NO idea how to bring up this subject, plus I didn't want to embarass him in front of the other boys in the cabin, so I asked God to help me. I prayed that He would give me the words.
That night, after we introduced ourselves, I told the boys in the cabin that one of them was at camp for a reason. The result was hilarious...
"Hey, is it me? What did my mom say to you?"
"Yeah, I'm here to find a woman!"
I remained vague for the rest of the week, but I added that one of them had been brought to camp by GOD. That REALLY got their attention! But, I still never found the right time or the right words.
At the end of the week, we write notes in each other's yearbooks. When I got Brandon's I simply wrote, "You're the one I was talking about. Read Acts 22:16"
A few months later, I found out the rest of the story... Brandon went on a hiking trip a few weeks after camp. As he came over a hill, he saw a crystal clear mountain lake. Overcome with God's beauty, he said, "This is it. This is where I'm going to be baptized!"
Isn't God awesome?! Not only did he answer Stephanie's prayer, but he used many people in the process.
When you start to seriously pray for something, and you ask God to help you accomplish His will, watch out!!! He may just give you goosebumps!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Marry That Girl!

My wife is a real trooper! I don't think she fully understood what she was getting into when she married a youth minister! She has stuck with me through good times, criticism, toilet paper in the front yard, and much more.
One of the first impressions of youth ministry was when she accompanied us on our annual float trip. We had just started dating and things were going great! I got to introduce her to my youth ministry buddies, and I was bouncing off the walls with excitement!
Everything started off great. Friday night we had an awesome time of games, a devotional, and fun fellowship.
On Saturday morning, all the kids were buzzing about the float trip coming up after lunch. As we were dividing into groups for the rafts, I was pleased to see that the teen girls swarmed my future-wife...wanting to be in her raft. (Yes! That means they like her!)
Of course, the boys in my raft didn't want to float...they wanted to RACE! So, we flew down the river in no time at all. We literally left everyone else in our wake!
When we returned, I hurried to take a shower. After that I went up to the main hall to wait for my girlfriend and ask how her trip went.
Several of the girls came in, falling over themselves with excitement. They rushed over and began to tell me a story all at once. As soon as they slowed down, I learned that one of the girls had seen a water snake, freaked out, tried to hit it with an oar (she thought it would get in the boat) and clobbered my girlfriend in the head with it on the backswing!
At that point, Tracy came in holding her head. I could tell she was really hurt. The bump on her head was huge! She was really patient, though...reassuring the teen girl that she was OK (and she wasn't going to sue her!)
A few months later, one of my youth minister buddies gave me a book as a gift. In it, he wrote, "I appreciate your friendship and your ministry. Now...marry Tracy already!"
We were engaged six months later. Thanks for the good advice, Tim!

Monday, March 14, 2005

The ABC's of Youth Ministry

Everyone knows that youth ministers in their first year are somewhat cocky and arrogant. Oh, sure...we might be a little scared that this is our first job and we are still "learning the ropes," but generally we KNOW that the teens like us because we are still young and we are "COOL."
This was my situation in my first year...I thought I was up on all the teen "lingo." I was sure I was still 'cool' in their eyes...until one fateful Sunday morning.
I breezed into class as usual, full of energy and ready to mold these young minds using God's Word. I made sure I dressed up a little bit (khaki pants and a polo shirt) so that the older folks at church would be proud of me.
Class began just fine. I went through the announcements, and even said a prayer before I noticed anything was wrong.
Finally, one of the boys said, "Franklin, come over here for a sec!"
Smiling, I approached, noticing that some of the other kids were giggling.
"Dude," he whispered, "XYZ."
"XYZ, man! XYZ!"
Not sure of his meaning, I straightened up, gave him the thumbs up and said, "ABC, dude!" to the delight of all the other teens.
His face turning red, he motioned me into the adjacent room, away from the other teens. When we were alone, he burst out laughing.
"Don't you know what 'XYX' means? It means 'X-amine Your Zipper', man!"
As my eyes dropped to follow his instructions, I must have gone white in the face. My zipper wasn't just partially had gone ALL the way south, if you know what I mean! Underwear and all were in plain view!
I thanked him for being honest and up front with his UNCOOL youth minister. I zipped up my pants and headed back into class where I proceeded to teach from Genesis on the verse (you guessed it) "...and the LORD created them male and female."
To this day I ALWAYS check my zipper before doing ANYTHING in front of a group!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Ring the Bell!

Alright, it's finally time for the infamous "Bell story!" Several people have been asking for it, so here it is!
It started a few years ago during the fall. Our local football team had just finished a game, and a few boys came over for a "Fifth Quarter" activity. They were hungry, so we decided to get some food.
After we had left the drive thru, one of the boys made the fateful comment: "Let's go ring the bell!"
Please first inkling was that they wanted to participate in what is commonly known as "ding-dong ditching." In this exercise of immaturity, you run up to a friend's house, ring their doorbell, and run to a hiding spot where you can laugh at your friend's response as they answer the door to find an empty doorstep.
The only problem was...that's not what the boys were planning! It turns out that the bell they wanted to ring belonged to an elderly couple in town...a couple that our teens didn't even know! Oh...and it was NOT a "doorbell!" The bell is a big cast-iron monster (maybe three feet tall) that hangs from a bar in the couple's front yard. The teenagers in town find it hilarious to lift up the thing and drop it so that the whole neighborhood can hear!
I should have realized it was trouble when they asked me to pull into the parking lot of the local Mormon church. I need to mention something else at this point...I was driving them around in the church van!
The boys said they would be back in a few minutes and ran across the parking lot into a shadowy grove of trees.
After a brief period of silence, I heard a tremendous "GONNNNNNNNG" followed by frightened laughter.
One of the boys came racing into the parking lot. He jumped into the van laughing and out of breath.
"Where are the other guys?" I asked with a smile on my face.
"I think they went another way, " he replied, "they should be coming from that direction."
As I followed his finger to the other side of the parking lot, my heart came to a screeching halt. A police car was pulling into the parking lot!
Panicked, I put the van in reverse, turned on the headlights, and pulled out of my parking spot. I slowly accelerated as I crossed the parking lot towards the police car.
The policeman held his arm out the window and flagged me down.
"Sounds like someone's being mischievous out here tonight, huh?!"
"Yes, sir, it does!" I replied, heart still stopped in my chest.
"That wasn't the church bell that I heard, was it?" he asked.
"No," I said, "I think it came from that neighborhood."
"O.K. Well, have a nice evening."
I have an idea why he let me go. It must have been because I had "Church of Christ" on the side of the van and we were parked behind the "Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints." He must have not put the two together, and thought I was just a minister taking a teenager home from church!
We circled the block a few times, looking for the other two boys. As we passed one of the side streets, I did a "double-take" and my heart stopped again: One of the boys was in the cop's spotlight!
I'm not necessarily proud of what happened next. The teen who was with me asked what I was going to do. I told him that if we circled that area, the cop was sure to we were going to leave our friend with the cop and go to my house.
"What?!" he cried. "You can't leave them behind!"
"Well, I'm sure not getting in trouble for your little prank!" I retorted.
We hurried to my house, where we switched to my car. We were thinking that if we returned in the car it would not look suspicious.
However, on the way back, I decided to park about a block over and walk to the parking lot. As I arrived, the last boy peeked out from behind the bushes and called out to me. Once he was sure it was really me, he emerged from his hiding spot. I asked him where the third boy was, and he told me that he had seen him scrambling off in a different direction.
Racing back to the car, we jumped in and drove around, searching for the teen who had been "busted." We couldn't find him, so we cautiously headed back to the church building.
After checking the parking lot for cop cars, we entered the building to find the last boy already there! Excited, we asked him what happened.
"Uuhhhhhhh, he asked me what I was doing, so I told him everything."
"What do you mean 'everything?'" we all asked at once.
"Uuhhhhhhh, I gave him everybody's names. He said he's gonna call everbody's parents."
"WHAAAAAAAT!" Names started flying as we all freaked out.
I was scared myself, at first, and then I assured the guy that he had done the right thing. Being honest is what God wants us to do, so it's best that he came clean. (Although I was SURE I wouldn't have a job by the end of next week!)
Well, the cop never called, to our relief.
To this day, I REFUSE to take the kids out on a prank...and I especially won't use the church van!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Teenagers and Pregnancy

My beautiful wife and I made an exciting discovery in December 2004...we were pregnant with our first child! We were extremely excited, but weren't sure if we should tell everyone at first.
Well, those of you who go to church know that this kind of news doesn't stay secret for long among your church family! More and more people seemed to find out with each passing HOUR!
Therefore, we decided one Sunday night that we would tell the teenagers. We went to Mazzio's, put some tables together, ordered some pizza and sat down.
Incidentally, one of our church's elders, his wife, and another couple were seated at a table not ten feet away.
When conversation temporarily died down, I went for it. "Guess what, guys?! Me and Tracy have some good news!"
The girls, of course, started screaming immediately! They knew what we were going to say even before we said it!
The guys, on the other hand, gave us blank stares until I told them our good news.
One of them got a big smile on his face, slapped my back, and proclaimed (for half the restaurant to hear...including the elder), "Way to go, knocked her up!"