Thursday, December 27, 2007
I get tired, too. But then I see double personalities rising within me. One that knows I should be helping others, and diving into their lives, and the other which sees the commercial with the little malnourished children and changes the channel apathetically. One side says, "Go and give of your time. It's the very least you can do!" while the other side argues, "You don't have any money, and you're not a person of great importance, so what difference can you really make?"
Shane Claiborne's book has been really challenging me lately. Here is a small excerpt:
"Popular culture has taught us to believe that charity is a virtue. But for Christians, it is only what is expected. True generosity is measured not by how much we give away but by how much we have left, especially when we look at the needs of our neighbors...
The early Christians used to write that when they did not have enough food for the hungry people at their door, the entire community would fast until everyone could share a meal together... The early Christians said that if a child starves while a Christian has extra food, then the Christian is guilty of murder."
If you're like me, you might say something like, "Yeah, but I don't really know any homeless people or folks that are hungry."
But I'll bet you know exactly where to find them. (I do!)
And I'm writing this during the Christmas season, when it becomes painfully obvious which folks are the "haves" and which are the "have-nots." I can tell just by taking a walk and peeking at the trash who received a new iPod nano. I've even seen a couple of cars that don't yet have license plates that might have been a Christmas gift. Even I received some CDs and DVDs, while there are some people who would be happy for a fancy Christmas dinner...or just having a family to eat it with.
I don't know where I'm going with this blog. Maybe I don't have to need a direction. Maybe it just needs to be said. We're very blessed, and maybe part of Christ's call is seek social justice in our neighborhoods and cities, making sure the blessed are sharing with the poor and not hoarding.
But living that ideal and talking about it are two very different things...
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
First, we headed off to Empty Tomb Church...a church for the homeless and near-homeless. At this church you get a ticket when you come inside. You can redeem this ticket after services for a hot meal and a sack of groceries.
I sat next to a man named Gary. His beard was awesome!! He was very kind and cordial towards me, and told me he had been attending here for a little over a year, I think. He had a handkerchief ready, as if expecting to be moved to tears during worship. Perhaps if I needed help (and therefore God) as much as he did, I would be more moved during worship as well...
What moved me the most was how the people helped each other out. There were several people who would get up and get a chair for someone, or give theirs away. You could tell that they took care of each other as much as possible.
Downstairs, we went to work packing during the altar call. As soon as we got ready, the line was forming! There had to be at least 200 people that attended that day, and almost all came through the line. Several people gave things back to us and told us they already had that item and to give it to someone else who needed it more. It was a very humbling experience and I am so glad our teens got to go. If I wasn't a youth minister, I would want to go there again. I believe powerful things are happening there. In fact, I think that's where Jesus would be if He was in Omaha.
From there, we rushed over to Salem Baptist Church. This would be the last stop of our weekend. It was a little more of what we are used to...a nice building, newer stuff, nice cars in the parking lot. But it was still challenging because WE were the minority in the place. You see, it's predominantly African-American. But this was also exciting because the teens knew there would be energy and rhythm that is so often lacking in the "white" churches.
They had their visitors stand to be greeted, and then the congregation sang a welcome song for us. Oh, the singing was glorious!! They had an adult praise team, but the children were in the choir loft behind the stage. There were probably 40 kids up there! It didn't take long before the place was rocking. People were hootin' and hollerin', dancing in the aisles, and praising God. There was genuine excitement in the air.
Pastor Bachus delivered an exciting message of hope. He is definitely a seasoned preacher. By the end of his lesson, he was singing and shouting, and had the place moving. What a wonderful experience to see a church that involves their children in the Sunday morning worship services instead of shipping them off to "Children's Church!"
And that, sadly, was the end of our weekend. In my heart, I craved more. I knew that God had been speaking the whole weekend, and I didn't want that contact to stop. But my crashing headache sapped me of energy and I was ready to get home to my wonderful, God-given family.
I am determined to keep listening for God's voice and instruction through all of this. Satan is already attacking...I think he wants me to forget about this and move on to the next "fun youth activity." As of right now, though, I am devouring Shane Claiborne's "Irresistible Revolution" and then it's on to "Under the Overpass" which is about two men and their experience of homeless living for six months.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
We were here to go on a prayer walk through the neighborhood.
Pastor Kip told us that he used to live in Bellevue and commute, but that he felt like he should live in the community where he preaches. He moved to a building across the street from the church building and it has really messed up his life (for the better!)
"My next door neighbor used to pimp out about five gals, but has walked away from that business. I still have a guy at the end of the hall who pimps out tranvestite males, which makes for an interesting weekend on my floor."
He went on to tell us of the crack house across the street and the prostitutes that roam the roads.
Probably the most insightful thing he talked about was the plight of the poor...
"See, cities think they are helping the problem when they 'refurbish' the poor parts of the city. They throw up new shops and upgrade old homes. They tear down the old and build the new. While this makes the city look beautiful, the people who used to live there can no longer afford the skyrocketing prices of housing. So in the end, all we end up doing is relocating the poor instead of really helping them..."
This thought rang in my mind as we walked and prayed through the neighborhood.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, I'm not sure which) it was cold and snowy, so we did not see the prostitutes out on the corners, nor the beer cans and drug paraphernalia that are commonplace. But we did see boarded up houses (condemned) that had lights on inside, indicating that someone was living there.
It was very bizarre to see the Woodmen building standing tall and beautiful not a mile away, along with other downtown buildings, and realize that the rich and the poor are so close in proximity.
And then I wonder how close I am to the poor. Are there people around me that need help? Am I not seeing them, or am I ignoring their presence altogether?
Again, I marvel at the beauty of Omaha, Nebraska...but lament that there are so many poor and homeless in our wonderful city. Pastor Kip also told us that the average age of the homeless was 17. 17 years old!! Sleeping in a box or sneaking into a covered garage!
I am tempted to roam the streets again to see more. But what would I do if I encountered some homeless 17 year olds? What would I do...?
Friday, December 21, 2007
This was our greeting as we entered Mission For All Nations. This mission is found in South Omaha in a place I never knew existed...Little Mexico. I knew there were Hispanic people in Omaha, but not that there was a street or two that look as if you are IN Mexico! I'll bet the food is awesome down there!
But we were there to serve, not eat!
The ladies got busy packing dry goods in boxes and sorting donations. The guys were split up. A few went to help gather frozen goods to give away, and the others (myself included) headed outside. We poured salt on the sidewalks to help melt the snow.
As people came through, they were given toiletries, frozen goods, dry goods, and then we put them in shopping carts and assisted the people in getting them to their (or their friend's) cars.
This went on non-stop from 12:30 to 4:00 PM. I was barely able to get a bathroom break! At the end, Pastor Josue held up a stack of papers and guessed that we had served over 300 families that day.
Josue and Mary Anaya are the founders of Mission for All Nations. Josue came to this country from a South American country (El Salvador?) in 1984. His friend took his money, and left him all alone in a foreign country with only the clothes on his back. He spoke little English and it was like 15 below zero in Des Moines. Someone from a local mission spoke Spanish to him and he gave his life to Christ, and promised to help others. He later would marry and start the Mission.
At one point, they had no money left as they started refurbishing the 100+ year old buildings from which they helped locals. They prayed fervently, "God, if You want us to continue this work, then they money has to come from You."
As the workers broke into one of the walls, they saw something inside. They took it out, gasped, and ran to show Josue and Mary. It was $3,000. And it dated back to 1984, so they believe that God "set it aside" for them since Josue gave his life to God.
Josue and Mary have 10 children (ages 20 down to 3 months) and they still keep people in their home from time to time.
In fact, the lady who separated guys from girls in the beginning had once been a meth dealer and done jail time. Because of Josue and Mary, and the life-changing power of Jesus Christ, she is now pursuing a degree, volunteering at the Mission, and drug-free!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
As we walked inside, the first thing I noticed was the smell. Probably body odor mixed with smoke, alcohol, and urine. There were about 15 men in the foyer area and 50 or so in a large room off to our right.
We waited in the dining room for our tour guide to arrive. When she did, she showed us the whole facility, telling us how one portion houses like 150 men, and another is for those who have a job and are on the verge of living on their own again. Women and children are in another area.
Meal times are separated (except for whole families) because some of the residents there have mental disabilities (story is coming on that one!) and don't act appropriately.
They have a separate warehouse that keeps all their clothing and furniture donations. We helped sort clothes (summer from winter) and take some off the racks.
At lunchtime, Tom (our coordinator) challenged us to spread out and meet some folks. The women were dining at this time, so I joined Troy who had sat down to eat with two women, one of which was deep in conversation with him.
After a moment, though, I realized something wasn't quite right. Here is a sampling of her words:
"The enemy gave me this sweater...they had to...and the enemy also gave me this ring, which has eight stones. Eight is my number, see, because eight is oxygen on the table of elements, and I am oxygen. I am also carbon monoxide. I am also carbon DIOXIDE!
On and on she went, spinning stories faster than Stephen King. Troy questioned her about the enemy, hoping to get a good answer, but all he got was "Man versus man."
After a bit, I pushed my chair back from the table and stood up. Troy shot me a look that said, "You rat fink! How could you leave me here alone with her?!" But my intentions were good. I went to get the teens and invited them to come and meet this woman.
As they sauntered over, they pulled up chairs thinking this would be a conversation with just another person off the street.
It didn't take long before they saw what was happening.
"Yeah, so I'm married. It's an arranged marriage to Jon Bon Jovi..." (Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the teens' jaws drop.)
"...who's playing at the Qwest Center, which I own. Oh, and by the way, Rosenblatt Stadium is staying in Omaha...I'll make sure of it!"
Probably the best line of the day was, "Jesus Christ came to bring division, but I came to bring love and peace, because I am...Frosty the Snowman!!!"
I laugh at that, and yet I cry at the same time. This woman's mind is so messed up because of drugs. She doesn't know what is real any more. I don't even think she can grasp concepts like sin and salavation, grace and mercy. She probably can't hold on to any friends, because who would want to listen to such tales all the time?
It's people like her that make me wonder about spiritual warfare. Does Satan have a grip on this woman? (Who claimed to be God, by the way.) Or is it just the drugs that have fried her brain?
So all we could do is listen and smile, and pray that God would be merciful to her...maybe even restore some sanity to her life.
Once she left, I just looked at the teens and burst out laughing. But my heart was breaking inside. Now, my curiosity was piqued. I really wanted to meet other people and hear other stories. But lunch was over and it was time for our next service opportunity. We said our goodbyes and dragged our feet towards the door. Our next mission effort was in South Omaha, in a part of the city known as "Little Mexico..."
Monday, December 17, 2007
Hmmm. Must be gang colors.
The Hope Center is on a mission to break the cycle of hopelessness for inner city children. We had the opportunity to meet some of them as they built gingerbread houses. They were like most other children...shy until you show some interest in them and what they're doing. Then, they light up!
Afterwards, we were given a tour of the Hope Center, which was started by a youth pastor from western Omaha. He had heard of the lack of parental and community support for a local high school football team, and started taking his youth group to the games. But, he was confronted with the fact that after they left, these kids remained in their desperate situations.
You see, that part of Omaha has been plagued with shootings this year. One month, there was a shooting every day.
So, it made sense (and yet was odd to see) when we were shown the monthly social attitudes calendar. Every month, the kids are taught topics such as "What to do when someone tells you 'No'", "How to disagree with someone", and "How to introduce yourself."
As we skated later, it was another bizarre sighting as the security guard wanded little kids entering the skating rink, checking them for weapons.
How would you not live in constant fear?
Imagine wondering if every stranger you met would befriend you or kill you.
I pray these kids can find Jesus in the peace and love that good Christian volunteers are teaching them at the Hope Center.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
It's hard to believe that you can see a whole new world just by driving twenty minutes from your home in western Omaha. But north Omaha (on the east side) would be surprising for some people to see.
On Friday night, we went with Angels on Wheels ministry to some low/no income apartments. As we were instructed on the evening activities, we discovered how faith-full these "Angels" really are. We delivered goodie bags to people beginning on the 12th floor and worked our way down.
We sang Christmas carols in the hallways and knocked on doors to see if people wanted to step out and listen. On almost every floor, there were at least two or three (out of like 10) that answered.
When someone would open their door, we would greet them, give them their bag, and ask if they had a favorite Christmas carol. After singing, one or two folks would stay behind and ask if they could pray with/for the apartment resident.
The Angels are a very charismatic group, which is strange to me, and yet comforting too. These people truly believe that God will answer their prayers! They prayed for healing and for folks with addictions. Prayers were dotted with "Praise Jesus!" and "Hallelujah!" Some muted spontaneous singing even broke out during the prayer time!
I enjoyed the singing/prayers/encouragement of Diane. She prayed for one woman who answered, but could not speak due to a cold and asthma. Diane prayed for her airways to open up and the cold to go away!
One particularly moving incident was when a little 7 year old (daughter of one of the Angels) put her hands on one woman's stomach and prayed for a healthy birth for her unborn child, and that the baby would make Jesus his/her Lord and Savior.
I must say that I choked up watching the faith of that little girl. You see, some of the parents at my church (and I'm sure I would have done the same) were very hesistant at the thought of sending their younger children (junior high) to the downtown area. And yet, this little girl was walking along with adults in one of the poorest, most harsh neighborhoods in Omaha. I wonder if we hang on to our kids too tightly instead of letting them be dangerous for Jesus.
The Angels told us (that sounds weird, huh?!) that the area used to be very dark. Prostitutes were rampant and drug deals were happening right in front of them. But they kept bombing the place with prayer and showing Christ's love, and things are clearing up!
Did I mention that they usually do this out on the street? Usually it's the homeless that they bring coffee and cookies to, and pray for. This weekend it was the "nearly homeless." People with little/no income, elderly, and/or no family to help them or give moral support. They were a pretty desperate lot.
Even though the Angels did things a little differently than me, I've got to honor them for putting their money where their mouth is. Their faith is genuine. Their faith is put to the test every weekend, while I just go and sit in church services, or enjoy a night at home with my family. They are ministering to the people that Jesus would be ministering to. So, in that sense, I can really say that I spent part of my weekend with Angels...and it was a bigger blessing to me than they will ever know.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Sometimes it's funny hearing Fischer say that. He's learning more about himself and his world every day. He's learning that he can be independent and that things can belong to him.
On the other hand, it can be annoying and frustrating, too.
"No, Fischer...that's Daddy's."
"Give it to Daddy."
"NOOOOO! It's MINE!" (followed by pitiful tears and pouting.)
Sometimes I wonder what God thinks of us when we clutch things in our hands and cry "MINE!" Does he laugh for a while, and then start to get frustrated? Is he gently trying to remind us that what's ours is really His?
The more I hear it from Fischer, the more I feel like I should thank God for giving me so much of HIS blessings. It ALL belongs to Him! He either made everything, made PART of everything, or made the person who made things. His hand is in it all.
Thank you, Father, for giving me so much. I know it's really Yours. Help me to think of all my blessings that way.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
"I want to go out in style." That's what the killer wrote in suicide note. I'm so glad my idea of "going out in style" is different from his. Here's mine...
- Remembered for loving others...even strangers.
- Respected for his wisdom and patience.
- Surrounded by family and loved ones.
- Walked with God...right into heaven.
Thank you to all those who have called out of concern for us. It's good to know that people are thinking about us.
On a side note, my dad reminded me tonight that I've been in several places where bad things have happened. I remember the day the term "he went postal" was coined. It was the first post office shooting and it happened in Edmond, OK...a postal worker named Patrick Sherrill walked into the post office on August 20, 1986 and shot 14 dead and wounded six. It was like a mile from my grandma's house and I heard the helicopters go by overhead.
Fast forward to April 19, 1995. I was in college and got to sleep in one morning. Around 9:45 AM I woke up to hear two DJs that were not normally on the radio saying something about "where you can go to help out or give blood." I turned on the TV, and CNN was the last channel I had watched the night before. I was greeted with the image of the Murrah building blown half away. 168 people were killed and over 800 were injured.
And now this. I hope this is it for me. Being in the same city as major evil is frightening. But I guess maybe I should show some light in these situations too. Maybe that's why I've been near several of these.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Sometimes we judge people by their results rather than the fact that they tried. I know Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them" but how big and juicy do those fruits have to be? I wonder if we put undue pressure on ourselves and on others to put in perfect performances and to feel bad if we don't hit our mark.
I'm just glad I went through the experience. Thanks, Tracy for being understanding and supporting. I know this was a difficult month and you saw me very little. Thanks to Jeremy for checking in on me and encouraging me.
I am currently in the metropolis of Blackwell, OK. I had a great trip, but now that I'm here I am a little nervous. They have me speaking at a youth rally about prayer.
#1 - What do I know about prayer? (very little! I have much to learn!)
#2 - How do you speak to teens about this vast and deep subject? (I guess maybe I should ask God to put words in my mouth!)
Please pray for me.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
We put up our Christmas tree, thinking that would give him something to do. Imagine our flabbergastedness when an ornament was bowled across our living room floor!
Why does this kid have so much energy?!
On a side note, I took a nap earlier this evening. So when I went to bed, I stayed there for over an hour trying to sleep before I decided to get up and do something useful with my time.
I wrote some more on my novel and I'm now over 35,000 words. I had a good day, but doing 5,000 words a day for the next three days would be next to impossible. But what a great comeback story that would be!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
We also had Post It Notes all over our basement window and front door. The door handle and forks had Vaseline on them, too.
Veeeeeeeeeeery creative, guys!
Tracy and I had a quaint little birthday celebration last night while some friends watched Fischer.
We had a nice dinner at Lazlo's. The baby back ribs were some of the best I've ever had. Our dessert was a chocolote brownie (thick) with ice cream and walnuts. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.
Next was Mister Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Dustin Hoffman is in my top five best actors of all time. He actually makes you believe that he might be a 240 year old wonder afficionado and avid shoe wearer. It was a very bizarre movie, but several scenes were very touching...
In several scenes, Mr. Magorium is revealing his plan to "leave." In so doing, he is trying to leave his store in the care of his store manager, played by Natalie Portman. She doesn't understand him at first until he makes it clear...he's leaving for Heaven (although he leaves "heaven" open for interpretation.)
The scene that brought tears to my eyes, though, was one with a boy (maybe 10 years old) and the straight-laced, stuck up, unimaginative, stuffy accountant played by Jason Bateman. The boy was challenged by Mr. Magorium to find a friend. The next day, the accountant looks up from his work to see this boy watching him through the office window. The rest of their hastily scribbled conversation went something like this:
Boy: Do you like checkers?
Accountant: I did when I was a kid.
B: Wanna play?
A: I'm working.
B: How about when you're done?
A: (Zooming in on his answer) I'm never done working.
We wrapped up the evening by buying me some much-needed jeans from Kohl's. We found a buy one, get one free deal. Two of my pairs of jeans have gaping holes in them, one is so bad (I HAD to wear it the other night because we were doing laundry) that I kept pulling my pullover down to make sure nobody would see my underwear!!
Monday, November 19, 2007
Don't you love it?
I had the distinct privilege of assisting our teens in leading a worship service tonight. Several of our young ladies planned the songs, and then worked the PowerPoint for the first time! The young men manned the sound booth, led the songs, and read scriptures. A couple of them even shared some thoughts on "family" (our topic.)
One of our worship leaders had an endearing moment tonight. Now you must understand that Lucas is a HUGE "teddy bear" of a kid! I'm not sure, but I think he stands around 6'3" and could hold about four Junior Highers on his back. And the cool thing is...he has the patience for something like that!
Lucas helped lead a few songs tonight, and was right on. His pitch was great, and he kept up a good tempo.
He led "The Greatest Commands." You know, the song with the four different parts? The singing was spectacular, and as all parts joined, Lucas wanted everyone to sing the final part one more time. But the song ended early in the PowerPoint presentation.
So he hesitated.
He waited while the girls at the back reversed through the slides until they got to the point he wanted.
Then he looked around with a sheepish grin and a nervous look in his eyes as if to ask, "Should we do it again?"
Nervous silence hung in the air for a few more seconds until he burst out, "GOD IS LOVE, GOD IS LOVE...!!" (which wasn't even the lead part, but that's OK!)
I thought it was cool that he wanted to sing the song again so badly. I thought it was cool that our church was OK with an awkward silence, not demanding "perfect worship." And I thought it was cool that the silence was broken with "God is love!!"
Lucas, you're my hero!
In case you're wondering, I surpassed 19,000 words earlier tonight. My friend Jeremy Divis is tearing it up! He has now passed the 34,000 word mark! Go, Jeremy, go!!!
Friday, November 16, 2007
I broke another record of mine this morning. I ran a mile in 9:03. I haven't run that well since I was in college! Granted, I almost threw up afterwards, but I did it!! I'm shooting to break 9:00 a couple of times and then I need to shake up my routine. Maybe I'll turn to some distance running next.
Fischer continues to crack us up with new words. Yesterday, he had a scrape on his tummy. Tracy was rubbing some antibiotic ointment on it and he uttered more words we have never heard him say: "Be CAREFUL!"
On Wednesday, Tracy was picking him up from Wee School at church. Fischer had a great day, but was showing signs of weariness. He was cranky, so I escorted them out to the van. Fischer kept yelling, "I want candy! I want sucker!" When Tracy opened the sliding side door for him to get in, he darted around the other side and almost in front of other cars in the parking lot. But Tracy was quick enough to catch him, and she was mad.
"I'm not messing with you! You don't run away from Mommy in the parking lot!"
"I'm not messing with YOU...gimme some candy!!!!"
She managed to shut the door before she turned towards me laughing hysterically. We can't stay mad very long with him. He is becoming our little comedian.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I knew that Akastasia was going to put a stop to my writing, and I was right.
But if anything would stop the writing, Akastasia was worth it. It definitely ran more smoothly than last year. We were on schedule or ahead of it the whole weekend! The worship and discussions were fantastic. I even got out and ice skated this year! And I did good!
As usual, there were a few hiccups. Some people wanting money, some kids causing trouble. I was glad to do what I could to help counsel a young lady who was asking for help.
Our teenagers in Nebraska need us. They need adults who care.
I am extremely proud of our teenagers and their work on this. I am also proud of our church, who came through in volunteering.
Saturday night worship was absolutely heavenly! I sensed the kids understanding the point we were getting across with the lesson, and really engaging in worship.
I was afraid they would lose their fervor on Sunday morning, since they would be joining the "old folks" for the regular assembly. I reassured them that the older folks LOVE hearing them sing, and seeing their enthusiasm. I was not disappointed. The atmosphere was electric! The kids stood up, clapped, and raised their hands. I wasn't trying to get them to do things that were uncomfortable. I was hoping they would find freedom in worship.
They taught me many lessons about freedom in worship...one of which is that I have a long way to go.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Fischer peed on me tonight. Yeah. He must have lifted his diaper and just squirted right into my lap! He was being so bad. After his bath, I left him for one second to change my clothes, came back and he had the toilet plunger on his face. I think he was singing into it like a microphone, but I don't remember because I screamed and jerked it away from him. I hope tomorrow is a better day for him.
I managed to get up early and write quite a bit this morning. I added a little bit on tonight, so my current total is 7,102 words. I think I'm supposed to be at about 10,000 but I'll take what i can get until after the youth rally is over this weekend.
Please be praying for everyone who will be traveling here this weekend. At last count, we had around 211 pre-registered. I am totally stoked about this and have been praying that God will show up and blow our minds at this rally. And I believe He will.
Friday, November 02, 2007
It was really looking bad, with my busy schedule and all, but I stole 15 minutes here and there and still managed to write.
Cumulative word count: 3,290
This is about 700 short of where I need to be, but hopefully I can make that up tomorrow.
We took pictures today at church for a MOPs fundraiser. Why do women like pictures of their families with NO SHOES? It must be an artsy, beautiful, woman thing! My feet are hideous! The last thing I want to do is show them off on film. I think I was able to hide most of them behind very long pant legs.
As Tracy was leaving (AGAIN) tonight (she says "Yes" to TOO MANY THINGS, but that's another post) I picked Fischer up and told him to say goodbye to her.
"Bye bye, Tracy!"
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Any of you who have ever been to Omaha know that it is a beautiful city. For someone to say this, there had to be something behind it.
I asked the brunette lady cutting my hair to explain herself and out gushed her story. It was sad. She left an established business, friends, customers, family...basically her home (in another state) to follow a man that she loved. But that "love" was short-lived. He dumped her soon after she moved here and she's been dealing with the pain ever since.
It was kind of funny, actually. I sat there and tried not to wince as she cursed, swore and stumbled through her story, hoping she would not snip off part of my ear. She told me that she knows she needs to work on her anger issues. She also confessed to me that she had quit smoking, but enjoyed the occasional beer here and there.
When it was over, I could tell she was overjoyed that I just listened to her. I kept waiting for her to ask what I did for a living. I wonder if that would have changed anything.
Sometimes, I have used the old guilt-trip, "Does anyone KNOW you're a Christian? Can they TELL?" when I'm teaching. Here's the problem with that logic...
What is the OTHER person's definition of "a Christian?"
If she had thought I was a Christian, she might have clammed up, thinking I was perfect and wouldn't identify with her struggles of anger, forgiveness, and addiction. She might have feared that I would berate her for not having a better vocabulary. She might have been mistreated by a Christian in the past. What if her "ex-boyfriend" was a "Christian?"
Don't get me wrong...I DEFINITELY want people to know I am a Christ-follower. But I hope that means they see Christ in me and not ME in me.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Don't worry, I haven't become a member of a cult or anything.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. I will be joining about 80,000 other crazy people in trying to write 50,000 words of a fictional novel in the month of November.
I'm terrified because I have our youth rally, Akastasia, coming up in just a few weeks (right in the middle of November!) But, I'm sure other people have excuses, too. I'll just have to work around it and give it my best shot.
I'm not sure I can come up with 2,100 words per day. Can my mind really handle that kind of creativity? Can I be THAT prolific? I don't know, but I'm gonna give it my best shot. I told a friend, "If I go down, I'll go down fighting!"
So, please forgive me if the blogging slacks off in a few days. I'm SO excited for November 1st to get here! I'll try to post some updates. Who knows? I might I even post an excerpt from my novel! Mmmm...maybe that will have to wait until after some editing has been done!
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Some more things to note about Dad...
- He gets bonus stuff like Wal-Mart gift cards all the time. These are given when a customer calls in with a good report on a customer service rep.
- He once helped Phil Mickelson's wife and family out. The golfer was traveling from one contest to another, and his family wanted to accompany him. Somehow, a mistake was made in the booking process. Dad made some phone calls and found them a vehicle. Phil Mickelson was gracious and sent a signed visor to my dad as a "Thank You!"
- He has been Employee of the Month approximately ONCE EVERY QUARTER every year he's worked there. Oh, and did I mention he works with 400 other people in his department?
So, this TOP-NOTCH employee gets fired without a warning or anything?
Hertz, get your facts straight! You are losing a good employee, and doing wrong in the process!
On another note, please be praying for a friend of mine who is struggling. He is really trying to get his small business off the ground, and is getting discouraged. It's been a couple of years and he is still in debt up to his ears, and hasn't seen much return on his investment.
I think, deep down, he knows that God would not do anything to HURT him. But, his question is why God would ALLOW this to happen after he asked for God's advice very earnestly before making this decision.
Monday, October 22, 2007
My dad lost his job today. What did he do? He was a booking agent for Hertz. The apparent reason for firing? His sales conversations were too long. Here are some things that really bug me about this situation:
1. Don't you WANT to have FRIENDLY salespeople? I actually appreciate it when I'm ordering something and find I have something in common with the salesperson.
2. He was given NO warning. They told everyone a few months ago that they needed to shorten call time. Last week, they called in my dad and told him he was suspended until Monday, when he would find out if he was being terminated. He was.
3. My dad is the HARDEST WORKER Hertz has ever seen. He has been with them for like 12-plus years now. He works overtime like no one else I know...he even offers to work some holidays! At one point he worked his way up to the position of training a new class of sales clerks. NO ONE works harder or is more loyal than my dad.
4. But here's the REAL STINK in the story: MY DAD WAS ONE YEAR AWAY FROM RETIREMENT.
Gee, Hertz, it's not BLATANTLY OBVIOUS that you don't want to pay his retirement!! Why can't you show some class and honor and do the right thing? You didn't even offer him a severance package! Are there NO honest businesses anymore?
Well, go ahead, Hertz. Go ahead and BOW to the Almighty Dollar...because you won't be seeing mine anymore.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
This was my son's latest excuse for not going to bed. It came after "I go pee pee" and "I go poo poo."
We have officially reached the "Terrible Twos." Fischer will do anything to avoid his bed. He is still a pretty good kid, but he now knows how to push our buttons. We are still trying to figure out the best reinforcement for him. It is very trying on our nerves.
So if you see us walking around like zombies, it's because our nerves are shot.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
They are X-Men. Mutants.
But...not the way you're thinking.
They are definitely creatures of evolution. People who have been changed, only not by a mutant strand of DNA. No, these people have been changed by Christ.
Some of them used to walk around like us. Some were caught in webs of their own problems. All of them made mistakes in their past. Some have had run-ins with the law, or have fought against addictions.
But they are different now...different inside and out. Their purpose is no longer for themselves. They serve a nobler cause than themselves.
Their difference from society is a source of great joy for them. They don't try to be different to be noticed. They just are different.
They have been changed from the inside out. Changed by Christ and his story. Their DNA has been mingled with blood of another type. They are Christ Men (and Women) or X-Men if you like (a la "Xmas")
I saw an X-Man tonight. He is so awesome to watch in action. His care for his family is evident. His past no longer defines him. He is eager to serve and goes beyond the rest of us to do so.
Here's to all the X-Men out there. Be different. Be bold. The world is watching.
Monday, October 15, 2007
- When you are silent enough (not preoccupied with other things) to appreciate it fully.
- When you do the mundane with someone you love.
- When you realize God is still with you, even during the everyday stuff.
This might sound ridiculous, but here are some mundane things that I have been magnificent for me recently:
- Sounds of the road. Turn off the radio and listen for the whirring of your heater, or the hum of your tires on the road. Can you appreciate the wind whistling outside your window?
- Time slowed for a few moments this morning as I gazed at leaves changing colors before my very eyes. They have started their change from a "camoflauge green" to brilliant fire-colors. You only get once a year to appreciate those shades of red and orange.
- Tracy called me at work today. The sound of her voice brought me back home for a few minutes. I could hear a little bit of frustration mixed with joy in her voice. Odd combination, huh? I love listening to the happiness in her voice as she gets to share things with me. I can tell she's excited to talk to me...and I am excited to hear from her.
- Fischer and I were playing cars earlier this evening. We went on a "cross country" drive when we left the living room, drove our cars down the hall and into his room. It was sheer joy and fascination as crawling under his bed became "a tunnel" for our cars. Back in the living room, he took his attention off his play (for just a second, mind you) and lifted his big blue eyes to look at me. "I love my daddy," he smiled. All of a sudden it was OK that we had already played cars 52 times this week. How's that for mundane?
So when has the mundane become magnificent for you? A drink of water after two days of Dr. Pepper? Sleep after an all-night study?
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Went to my first Huskers game the other day. It's alway exciting to go to a stadium and see the passion of the fans firsthand. I must say that Husker fans are some of the most loyal and gracious fans I've ever met. Who else would stay in the stadium as their team was being blown out? They were also kind to me as an Oklahoma State fan. They have a tradition here of releasing red balloons when a touchdown is scored. It would have been cool to see that happen...but the fans were so discouraged they would let the balloons go if the Huskers just got a first down!
My winning streak (in golf) against my father-in-law only last three days. We played again at Bay Hills Golf Course in Plattsmouth. I was massacred. The course is pretty, but deceiving. The first couple of holes make it look like a pretty flat course. The rest of them are up and down...hilly as I've every seen! I'm glad I didn't walk it! It was a beautiful course, but hard. I should have put my driver away on several holes and played safe!!!
The teens and their families were supposed to make the annual trek to Vala's Pumpkin Patch this afternoon, but we were rained out. I was kinda disappointed, because the kids really seem to enjoy going out there, and there were at least four or five that were bringing their friends. I also enjoyed the time because I got to talk with some of the parents around the campfire last year, and I really enjoyed that time.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Today, I forgot my lunch, and went out to grab a quick bite around noon. After I had ordered some KFC, I was waiting at the drive-thru window when I made a horrifying discovery...my change from yesterday at Wal-Mart was NOT in my pocket!
I had left my wallet in my golf bag, so I had no debit card and no ID for the bank to cash a check I just happened to receive yesterday.
No lunch for me!
Later, when I came home I turned the house upside-down looking for that money! Guess what the final verdict was...?
I think I left my money in the Self Check-Out lane at Wal-Mart!! Where was MY Good Samaritan? :) (The good folks at Wal-Mart are checking on this for me.)
I failed miserably on my little experiment today (see yesterday's blog for details.)
No, it wasn't because I turned ON the music. It was my attitude...my heart. Instead of talking and listening to God, I practiced Sunday's song service! It's like my brain manufactures stuff to do if there's no noise!
That just tells me that I need silence more than ever...
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Maybe she'd had a bad day. Maybe she deals with people all day long and was ready for "me" time. Or maybe she just didn't think I was calling out for her. Whatever the reason, she was NOT turning around.
In a fraction of a second, these thoughts burst through my mind:
- Lady, your unsocial attitude is about to lose you 40 bucks!
- 40 bucks is a lot of money.
- I haven't had $40 in my pocket for a long time.
- I bet I could put that money to good use.
- She probably wouldn't even notice...
- NO! Do the right thing!
Time sped up again...
The good Samaritan Wal-Mart greeter saw what was happening and caught her attention, "Ms, he's calling for you."
As she thanked me, I shook my head at my unbelievable conversation with myself. What a crazy mind I have! Don't worry, I was prepared to run her down in the parking lot if it got that far...
Speaking of crazy thoughts, I'm trying an experiment this week (it just started this morning.) I've decided that there will be NO music when I'm in the car. I've decided to try silence for a bit instead of noise.
You might be surprised at what happens when you "turn off the sound." I found out a few things:
- My mind went crazy trying to fill the emptiness caused by lack of noise.
- I had so many scattered thoughts it was like I had my own radio show in my head!
- When I tried to pray, I got off track several times (not off the road, but off the track of praying.)
- It took about 10 minutes before my thoughts became focused, and I had some clear, uninterupted thoughts. It amazed me that I came up with some great ideas for a future lesson on prayer by being quiet.
I'm so used to background noise that I've forgotten what silence sounds like. I didn't realize how frazzled our nerves can get trying to process all the sounds we bombard ourselves with every day. I've forgotten that silence is the best way to hear God's loving whisper...
Can you hear it, or is there too much noise?
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
- Slept in (OK, it was only until 8:30, but that's sleeping in for me!)
- Eggs and sausage for breakfast...thanks, Linda!
- Read some more of "Pilgrim Heart" by Darryl Tippens. It's starting to really make me think!
- Dreamt of ideas for National Novel Writing Month (which is NEXT month!) What do you think? Should I do it? It's around 1,500 words a day!
- Played a new golf course with my father-in-law...Ashland Golf Course.
- You can't get better than golf on a 68-degree autumn day in Nebraska...
- ...except when you beat your father-in-law...
- ...and when you break 100, which is a first for me!!
- Did I mention I beat my father-in-law for the first time today?
- Supper at Julio's.
They don't make 'em much better than that!
Monday, October 08, 2007
We have a wonderfully diverse group of people. I am becoming friends with people whom I would NEVER contact if I lived by the world's standards. Usually if you don't have much in common, you move on to the next person. In Christ, you find something (no matter how small) that you have in common and CELEBRATE your similarities AS WELL AS your differences!! You love the other person NO MATTER WHAT! And that means that people love me even if I seem "bizarre" to them! What a great place to call home!
Our shepherds are prayerful, wise warriors. Sometimes a warrior needs to know when to retreat. Sometimes they tell me to "back off" when I want to go full steam ahead with something. Most of the time I look back and see the wisdom in their counsel. I wish the congregation knew how much their shepherds care for them and pray for them. I wish they could hear the hearts of their shepherds as they open up to God.
I love the familiar faces I get to see in the office: Patty (our "administrative assistant"), Cindy (director of our adoption services), and Jim, the "usual" (not normal!) guy that's in the pulpit!! I look forward to our office meetings and our occasional venture out of the office to hunt...for a great restaurant. I appreciate how Patty helps me remember little details when I am forgetful. I appreciate how Cindy recently volunteered to do housing for our youth rally (hahhaha...you can't back out now!!) I appreciate Jim stopping in my office to talk to the "junior minister" from time to time, and also his inspiring messages on "Heaven" recently.
I love the teens I work with. Oh sure, they can be a pain sometimes...like their problem of TALKING SO LOUD IN CHURCH THAT EVERYONE CAN HEAR THEM...but I still love them! :) I appreciate how they try to make visitors feel welcome. It makes me feel good when they compliment me for a lesson or activity they enjoyed (teens don't do that!) I love it when we are all working in the same direction and I get to witness their excitement!
I love this church, in good times and bad...because I think that's how God loves me. I think He is positive when I am negative. I hope I can be like that more often...
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
As usual, I have been preparing for a teen class (called "How To Know If You're Really In Love") and God "spoke" to ME through my study. I came upon 1 Corinthians 7, which I usually just skim over, because I don't remember it being so powerful. There is a lot of great stuff in there. Here is just a sample...
In verse 5, Paul writes to married couples, "Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer."
Now, let's be honest. How many of you are thinking about prayer when you aren't having sexual contact with your spouse? I guarantee you most guys are thinking, "When is the next time?" rather than "Maybe I can pray with my wife." (Sorry for being blunt.)
Paul goes on to say (in verse 29) "From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none..."
WHAT? What are you trying to tell me, Paul?
"I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." (Verses 32-35)
I am a lucky man...lucky that I found a wife whose interest is pleasing the Lord. She understands that some evenings I won't be home until late because I am trying to please God. She understands my job and my ministry, and the sacrifices that go with it.
But I feel like I have forgotten to "bring my interest home." What I mean is..."pleasing God" shouldn't stop when I walk through my door. Talking about God and leading people to God are things that I sometimes do at work, but not at home. OK God, I get the message.
If you'll excuse me, I think I'll go pray and read the Bible with my wife now!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
No, I need something for me. Something I can go through slowly. Something that will be encouraging and thought-provoking at the same time. Maybe even something I can study with another person or two.
Any good books or studies anyone else has done lately? (BESIDES the one my wife is doing...something about being a "helpmeet!!!")
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I was polishing off my chicken strip salad...Fischer and Tracy were already done eating their supper. Tracy was seated in the living room and Fischer was playing near me. I heard something heavy begin to slide and turned, too late, to see my son get cracked in the head by a flower pot whose vine he had been tugging on.
As crying got under way, for some reason I got angry. "That's what you GET when you pull on stuff. Mommy has TOLD you NOT to mess with th..."
My ranting ceased when the blood started to drip down his face. I jerked him into my arms and ran for the faucet and paper towels.
"Baby, is he OK?!" my wife bolted into the kitchen to assess the situation. The blood sent her overboard, "OH, MY GOSH! I can't watch this, I can't watch this!" She ran into our bedroom sobbing.
"He'll be alright," I yelled. "We just have to stop the bleeding."
Somehow I was holding it together, being patient for everyone. Fischer began to calm down. I took away the wet paper towel, which was now soaked with dirt and blood. I tried to clean up the wound a bit so I could see how bad it was. Wetting another paper towel, I took Fischer into the living room and gently sat down on the couch.
Tracy rejoined us, a little more composed. But, the moment I removed the towel, the waterworks resumed! "Is he going to need stitches?"
Together, we took him to the bathroom and held his head under the sink. We cleaned him up a little, but the bleeding wasn't stopping.
So now I am in the Urgent Care, waiting for the doctor to take Fischer. She already took a look at him in the waiting room and said he will probably need one or two stitches.
Even though the bleeding has stopped, the blood on my hands and shirt bring back the whole scary situation. I feel regret because I wasn't watching. I feel weak because I didn't prevent it from happening. I feel like a terrible parent. I feel so...human.
UPDATE: As blood washes away and healing begins, my intense feelings subside (probably because the adrenaline stopped pumping!) I realize I can NEVER be everywhere and fix everything. Is that a "Daddy Syndrome" or just a "man thing?" By the way, Fischer ended up with one stitch. Hahahaa...he got a stitch before Mommy and Daddy! That's kinda scary...considering he is TWO!!
Friday, September 14, 2007
In my opinion, this extremism has some problems with it...
- Focusing on the negative - The media has been uber-focused on Britney Spears and the past year of her downward spiral culminating in a not-so-great comeback at recent music awards. The poor girl has been struggling with family issues and addictions for quite some time. And yet, the worse it gets, the more we want to see! WHY? Is focusing on her during this time of trial going to help her or hurt her? Why has it become "fun" for paparazzi to provoke celebrities? What does it say about our nation as we make sport of those who are in pain? I think it would be common sense AND just plain "kind" for the nation to back off (not pay for celeb magazines) and paparazzi to quit taking pictures of Britney for ONE year, so that she can get some help in peace and straighten out her life.
- The Middle-Child Syndrome - Social scientists say that there is a dynamic in which the middle child is not shown as much attention. The firstborn child is an overachiever and got lots of praise, while the baby gets the majority of attention, leaving little praise or attention for the middle-born child. If our society focuses on extremes, what does that say about the gal who just lives a "normal life?" Is it OK to have a day in which your highlight was sitting in the backyard with your family and watching the sunset? Or does it have to be that you are watching the sunset...which is interupted by your neighbors fighting? Or the police chase a car thief into your yard and tackle him at your feet? Why can't we see beauty in a life that is not extreme?
In one of my favorite films "The Last Samurai," Katsumoto (played by the wonderful Ken Watanabe) is examining a flowering tree when Algren (Tom Cruise) asks what he is doing.
"The perfect blossom is a rare thing," he says, deep in thought. "You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life."
At the end of the film (SPOILER WARNING) Katsumoto is dying in Algren's arms. As he looks at another blossoming tree he smiles and whispers, "Perfect. They are all...perfect."
Maybe we can learn, as Katsumoto did, that if we look closely we can see the beauty of each blossoming human life. Instead of looking for THE perfect one (which would be an extreme) we could see that all life is valuable...even a mediocre, "normal" life.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Up and down, up and down, bump the head because he's jumping and hits the upper bunk. He must have wandered into our room 20 times. But each time, she patiently got up and led him back to bed.
Once he was finally asleep, she brought me the medicine I needed to try to get some sleep.
One of life's greatest treasures is knowing that you have someone there to take care of you when you need it.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
- "tek a daf"
- "awa canny"
- "wuv oo"
- "take a bath"
- "I want candy"
- "Love You!!"
Friday, August 31, 2007
Say the word with me: "VACATION." It just rolls of the tongue, doesn't it? Ahhh, just saying it brings to mind the sight of the road through my windshield and the taste of sweet tea as I relax. It brings my heart rate down. My wife would probably say it makes me easier to live with! :)
Yes, we are FINALLY going on vacation! Well, my wife has already traveled this summer, but summers are off-limits for vacation (for me) because that's when the teens are out of school and available.
It was an awesome summer. Teens grew closer to each other and closer to God. Their faith was strengthened. We had awesome participation.
Now it's time for Franklin to go away for a little while.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Tonight, I was encouraging a new 9-year old Christian the importance of prayer. I dug up one of those old worksheets that has several scriptures about prayer and then has Yes or No written out to the side for the student.
Of course, we studied Matthew 6, one of Jesus' prominent teachings on prayer. I was doing fine until I came to this passage:
"7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Here's the struggle:
On the one hand, I have heard (and probably taught) that you should be able to tell God ANYTHING! That the conversation should be open and honest, and that you should be able to tell God everything about your life, even the smallest of details (like David in the Psalms!)
And then, Jesus says, "Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
This makes it sound like I should NOT share the smallest details of my life. It makes it sound like God already knows, and therefore does not need me telling Him about my life.
This is both comforting and frustrating. Comforting because God already sees what is going on in my life, and He knows what I need. I don't have to tell Him, or make requests all the time because He knows. He is a good Father who knows me inside and out, and wants to take care of my needs.
But, it's frustrating because, as a human, I badly WANT to have someone with whom I can share the details of my life!
I need to study this passage more. Any insights?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
One of my dad's all-time favorite songs is "It Is Well With My Soul." Dad would get up to lead it, announce the number, pinch his pointer finger and thumb together (other three fingers extended), smile across the crowd, and start it.
At this point, as a teenager, I would shrink down about three inches into my seat and hold my songbook in front of my face. You see, Dad would get to the second and third verses and be practically yelling the words as he waved his arms (and most of his body) in gigantic circles. The other kids would smile as they glanced at my blushing face, but were mostly glued to the action up front. Later in life, I would discover why...
My parents came to visit me when I was the youth minister in Ponca City, OK. One particular Sunday night, we had a 5th Sunday singing, where the podium was open for any man who wanted to lead a song or two. Of course, my dad could not let such an invitation go unanswered, so as he strode up to the front, I knew what was coming.
"Turn to number four-hundred and ninety. Four. Nine. Zero."
The smile came and the hand went up, but this time I didn't bury my face in my songbook. I watched my father lead a song that was dear to his heart.
As he came to the second verse, he sang as LOUD as possible, waving his arms back and forth to emphasize the words. And during that moment, I heard these words that I had heard all my life, but never really noticed...
My sin, o the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross
And I bear it no more
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, o my soul!
As Dad yelled/sang these words, my voice cracked and I put my hands over my face to hide the tears. Now that life wasn't about me and my embarassment, I understood my dad a little better...especially why he liked that song so much.
What about you? Anyone have funny or fond memories of an older Christian and an old song that they LOVED to sing?
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
As I sat down with him, I had a list of things in my mind that I thought most people should know before they are baptized. Please understand, they are more like guidelines than "stop signs." In other words, I wouldn't use "lack of knowledge" as a reason to prevent someone from becoming a Christian.
Listening to him talk, I could tell that he had been thinking about this decision for quite a while. And he had been thinking about it hard. But there were a few things I felt like he wasn't grasping, so I told congratulated him for mulling over this topic, asked him if he wanted to meet again next week (with any more questions he could think of), and told him to ask himself, "Am I willing to give 100% of my life over to God?"
We gave each other a high-five and I escorted him back to his mom. We spoke for a few more minutes and she was very appreciative of me taking time to speak with him.
I hurried back to my office to get some things and headed to the Wednesday night devotional in our gym. Standing in the hallway looking concerned was the mother I had just encountered.
"Isaiah is pretty upset," she said. "I found him around the corner crying. He kept saying, 'But, mom, I AM ready! I AM ready to give 100% to God! I don't need to think about it any more!"
At that point, Isaiah shuffled over to us. I crouched down and put my hand on his shoulder.
"I am so proud of you!" I whispered. "Listen, buddy. If you are really ready to do this, then who am I to stop you? If you're ready to do it, then let's do it tonight!"
His teary eyes brightened and he smiled at his mom.
I straightened up and apologized to her. "It's not my job to guard the baptistery. If he says he's ready, then let's do it."
Now I have a new little brother in Christ. Isaiah Mallet. What a cool kid! By the way, he's very forgiving, too...we're meeting again tomorrow night (a week after his birth into Christ!)
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
In case you're wondering, it was about youth ministry in the United States and the pressure to perform as a youth minister. The pressure to provide results, even though you can't force people to do things!
Oh, the post was not brought on by any discontent in my job. A friend of mine called recently to tell me he was getting out of youth ministry because of the pressure.
In some ways, I understand. Some days, I think it would be easier to do a job where I could see tangible results.
At the same time, however, I'm sad. We've lost another good man. Oh, he won't leave the church or anything, but he has been wounded...wounded by family.
Encourage your ministers today, will you?
Let them know that you love them. Tell them that sometimes you get mad at them, disagree with them, think they're immature, don't see results from them, etc...but tell them YOU STILL LOVE THEM. That's family. That's what I believe God wants.
Friday, July 20, 2007
"This song is dedicated to people like me, those that struggle with insecurities, acceptance and even self esteem. You never felt good enough,You never felt pretty enough, but imagine God whispering in your ear letting you know that everything that has happened is now...
Gone, gone, it's gone all gone
(Every sin, every mistake, every failure)
Gone, gone, it's gone all gone
(Depression, gone, by faith, it's gone)
Gone, gone, it's gone all gone
(Low self-esteem, hallelujah, it's gone)
Gone, gone, it's gone all gone
(It's gone, all my scars, all my pain)
Gone, gone, it's gone all gone
(It's in the past, it's yesterday)
Gone, gone, it's gone all gone
(What your mother did, what your father did)
Gone, gone, it's gone all gone
If you would like to watch the video, go here and click on the flashing "Watch the Imagine Me Video."
Warning: Some material is almost PG-13 (in my book) AND...you might want some tissue nearby!!
Monday, July 16, 2007
We had a great time last night (and night before) at the Heartland Festival with Luis Palau. The songs were uplifting...especially Jeremy Camp. And Kirk Franklin, I am not usually a gospel/hip-hop fan, but I would listen to you leading worship ANY day!!
Can I just add another note here to our African American brothers and sisters? They add a special element to worship that is lacking from the rest of us. There is a joy (and an ability to keep a beat!) that the rest of us envy in you!!! It was SO much fun for me to watch a group of African American teens dance during the worship. It was as if they had worked on it for a long time! But it made me smile, knowing that they were experiencing complete joy in Christ.
By the way, sorry for not posting in a while. Life gets HECTIC for youth ministers in the summer! I have ONE more week of church camp (next week) and then should start winding down. By sometime in August I should be able to post a bit more regularly. Thanks for checking in!
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
These websites gave me an idea...
What if Christians started a website where they listed all the "stuff"' they needed to get rid of that could benefit someone else? They would list it for free instead of selling it (unless they sold it in order to give the money away.) Maybe some corporate sponsors could give some money to pay for shipping costs.
What kind of possibilities could come of this? A starving family in Tennessee receives canned goods from Michigan. A home is built in South America because some extra wood was donated. An Italian church donates some beds that go to Africa. You look online to find a computer that your neighbor could really use to help her find a job.
If we did this, would we look more like the early church found in Acts 2?
"All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:44-47)
Friday, June 15, 2007
- The kids and volunteers know where to go on the second day...WAAAAAY less confusion!
- Twelve more kids tonight!!
- Scott Moore looks great in a turban.
- I love how the kids have now become familiar with you and so they will give little waves as they pass by.
- The same girl that hugged Troy last night came down the aisle to hug me in the middle of singing a song at the closing tonight! That'll melt your heart!
- Some folks from Narcotics Anonymous use our building once a week. Tonight they walked into a room full of vines, animals, and assorted VBS crafts!! I ran back in and apologized profusely, but they were very accomodating. "As long as we have a coffee pot," they said, "we're just happy we can use your building. And it looks like you guys are having lots of fun!"
- Met more great folks from Omaha Church of Christ. Our members are building great relationships with them. Unity ran high.
- Kids were hugged and God was praised...can it get much better than that?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Vacation Bible School was great tonight! Here are some highlights...
- Troy Thornton soaking up a hug from a little girl after he sang about what she was most thankful for.
- Two churches uniting to do something in the name of Christ (Omaha Church of Christ joined us this evening, and they are GREAT folks!!!)
- Tootsie Rolls (the fat ones, not the little skinny ones!)
- Getting hugs and high fives at the end.
- One of Southwest's little boys came up after our "Bring a Friend Challenge" and declared, "Tomorrow morning, I am going to wake up, pass out flyers all morning, and then collect food for the homeless. And if anyone is scared, I will give them my stuffed animals."
- 50+ kids getting extra love and attention from God-loving adults.
- Jesus smiling as He was adored by young hearts.
Friday, May 25, 2007
At the beginning of the year, I blogged about how terrible I felt because of the weight issues. Since I started losing the weight, I've had heartburn MAYBE one time (as opposed to every day!!) I have also come to enjoy the feeling of being hungry (it's so much better than the feeling of being stuffed all the time!) My personal favorite is just having more energy!
By the way, did I tell you that my wife is going to do a sprint triathlon (swim 500 meters, bike 15 miles, and run 3 miles) in July?! She has lost about 20 pounds as well. I am SO proud of her!
Now, are there still problems in my life? Yes, losing weight doesn't solve all your problems. Scheduling exercise time is still difficult. Making right decisions on eating is still VERY tough! I still get in bad moods occasionally. Satan has not stopped trying to tempt me just because I've dropped a little body fat.
But God is good, and the physical advantages of losing the weight FAR outweigh keeping it!
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Right now, we have NO problem getting Fischer in the bath!
The other night, I heard Tracy running bath water (for herself!) when she yelled for me to come and look. Apparently, Fischer heard the water, snuck away from me, entered the bathroom and hopped right in!
So, we will enjoy the days that Fischer INSISTS on getting in the bathtub.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I've heard the stories for years. Stories about "mean" teachers. Stories saying that one way to get back at them was to put a tack in their chair...
Yes, I sat on a tack that had been strategically placed in my chair on Sunday morning. It pierced clothing and flesh, pinning the two together. The offender (who shall remain nameless in order to protect their life from their parents!) claimed they "thought it would be funny, but as you were sitting I realized it might hurt."
"Gee, ya think!!!???" I retorted after class.
But, during class, as my rear came to rest on the metallic piercing, I just grimaced, stood up, removed it and went on with class. Several well-meaning teens asked if I was OK. I was...despite my pride being hurt and my adrenaline pumping. I wasn't even being mean!!!
Nevertheless, it was a great lesson for me. Why? I was teaching on "Godly Reactions" (see last post.)
Note for other Youth Ministers: If you have a teenager helping you with an illustration using a tack, NEVER lose sight of it!!!
Thursday, May 10, 2007
In Chapter 5, James asks how you react to certain things, and then he describes how we should react in a God-honoring way. Will you take this test with me? Let's see how we do...
Situation ... Reaction
You're in trouble ... pray.
You are happy ... sing songs of praise.
You are sick ... call the elders to pray over you and give you medicine (in God's name.)
You have sinned ... confess it to another believer and pray for each other.
If I were honest, my list would probably look more like this...
Situation ... Reaction
You're in trouble ... tell some friends how miserable I am and hope they will help.
You are happy ... sing songs (at least I'm close on this one!)
You are sick ... call the doctor to check me out and give me medicine (generic brand.)
You have sinned ... maybe pray for myself; tell no one; hope everyone thinks I'm perfect.
How about you? Are your reactions based on your feelings or are they based on your faith in God? Do you react by protecting yourself or by projecting your problems to your Father?
Confession Time: Lately I feel like some of my reactions have not been because of faith, but out of feelings. I need to do better at giving things to God. Will you pray for me?! (I will be praying for you!)
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Saturday night we attended a great show choir event at Westside High School to see several of our teens perform. One of them realized halfway through one song that his fly was completely unzipped! I know the feeling, Nate! See my post from March 15, 2007 about halfway down this page... http://youthministryhilarity.blogspot.com/2005_03_01_archive.html
Don't worry, he recovered nicely...he just tucked his shirt tail back in, smiled at everyone and zipped back up!!
After my hectic week, I got some GREAT quality time in with the family. Saturday morning, Fischer came and laid in bed with us. He was very content and is starting to count!! He says, "1,2...5!" He also went pee in his little potty today! To most people, such an event would seem absurd to report, but for parents it is exciting!! The diapers will be coming off soon, hopefully!!
Probably the best part was when Fischer just came and sat in my lap this afternoon. I reclined the chair and he leaned his little head back onto my chest. We sat there for a good half hour, watching TV and eating Flavor Blasted Cheddar Goldfish.
Today, we had a ceremony for our high school seniors. It really got me thinking about stages of life. I'm so excited for them as they go off to college! It is a scary yet exhilarating thought to go off on your own. I hope that our service and ceremony today was encouraging to them. I hope that they felt blessed to be a part of our church and the family of God. I hope they are at peace as they prepare to leave home and that they are prepared to enter the world...prepared to fight for their faith.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
I take a breath to slow things down and realize that a week has gone by. I have no particularly fond memories, only flashes of hurried activity.
I sigh as I realize I will never get that time back.
Life doesn't stop for anyone until the end. "Time" never takes a time-out. But I can sure wrangle it in and slow it down from time to time!
What are you doing right now? Get off the computer! Go to your loved ones and just look at them and enjoy it! Quit making new projects for yourself! Take a nap. Read a book. Read a magazine the whole way through. Have a conversation that lasts for longer than 15 minutes. Stay at the church building instead of rushing off next week. Oh...here's a novel idea...get rid of ONE commitment (remembering that we should never get rid of our commitment to God!)
Remember..."if the devil can't make you bad, he'll make you busy."
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
"The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." (from Numbers 6:24-26)
My interpretion of this passage would sound something like this...
May the LORD take care of you and hold you in His loving arms
May you see the LORD smile and feel His loving kindness
May God turn His face towards you so that you feel at peace.
In a few weeks we will be blessing our graduates. I constantly struggle with how to bless people. It is a foreign concept to our culture. And yet, I know how sweet it is to hear a blessing from a loved one.
I hope I can continue to learn how to bless others. What to say, how to say it.
May God Almighty bless you today
Feel His presence as He walks beside you
Know He loves you as you look at the sky
May the LORD keep you and your loved ones wrapped in His protective arms
May He give you abundant joy and contentment
As you rest in His presence.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
My first reaction is to scream, "What's WRONG with you? Why would you do something like this?"
My next reaction is to calm down and say, "No, seriously. Why WOULD he have done something like this?"
Apparently an extremely shy kid...Cho never spoke to anyone. He had moved from South Korea when he was eight years old.
Starved for attention, he would "sign in" at college classes with question marks instead of his name. It seems like he was subtly asking the professor, "Do YOU know my name? Do you know who I am? Do you care?"
So we have a kid transplanted kid from another country, leaving everything he knows to come to a new and strange place. His relationship with his stepfather is already not a good one. He arrives and perhaps some people tried to reach out to him, but he is painfully shy. He gets made fun of by rich kids and develops a deep anger towards them which is never released or resolved.
Could the love of Christ have reached Cho? God loved Cho with a relentless love. He was always there, offering his love and hoping.
This incident just reminds me how important youth ministry could be. Reaching out to "the new kid" is one of the best ministries you will ever do. Breaking through the "shy" kid's wall is extremely rewarding. Coaching a teenager along spiritually, emotionally and socially is SO important!! Teaching how to properly release your anger is a must for us all.
Victims, survivors and families...my prayers are with you.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
- Fischer (my son) with spaghetti all over his face...not a care in the world!
- The day Fischer was born. Stressful, joyful!
- Shadow puppets with Tracy (my lovely wife) on a Friday night when we had nothing else to do.
- A kid in my youth group getting busted by the police!
- A kid in my youth group catching fire by sitting too close to candles I had set out!
- A radiant and beautiful Tracy walking down the aisle on our wedding day.
- The look on Tracy's face as I proposed.
- My mom's smile as I walked with her down the aisle at my graduation.
- Sneaking chocolate chips with my dad, and sitting in his lap to watch Star Trek as a kid.
Oh, I could go on and on and on!!! You know what, though? The times I remember being terrible...well, they don't seem so bad when I recall them. I seem to remember happy times much better than sad times.
Maybe that's God's way of reminding us to dwell on happy memories. Maybe it's His way of saying, "See how many great things have happened in your life?" Maybe it's His way of cheering us up when we've had a bad day and a friend calls chuckling about an old memory. Maybe it's God's way of making life even sweeter!
What are your favorite "snapshots of life?" (Doesn't matter if we know you or not...please share!!)
Saturday, April 07, 2007
I've read several books and articles recently that make claims about teenagers. Apparently, we are in a new "phase" called post-modernism. The problem is, now we are putting teenagers in a box! Not all teens fit into this "model." Not all teens are the same! I can tell, for example, that there is a difference in the teens from Oklahoma and teens from Nebraska.
But the other thing that upsets me is all the TALK about how to minister to teens. We study them, analyze them, poll them, observe them, and make programs designed for them. All this "information" is driving me crazy!! One week someone says we shouldn't create big programs because teens aren't drawn to that anymore. But the next week, I hear from a church that started some program that has tremendous success among teenagers! One week, we should be a service-driven church, and the next we should be purpose-driven!
I dunno, maybe I've been reading from James too much (this is our study for Senior High this quarter) whose main message is "Quit talking about it and DO it!!!!"
I think I've been looking for information, but I have lacked motivation. I want to know, but I don't want to go.
I have been very much challenged this year to start practicing my faith. One was a lesson from Chris Seidman in which his challenge was for us (as teachers of God's word) to DO IT OURSELVES before teaching it to the church!! "No more canned illustrations from other people!" he cried. "Let's start sharing our OWN stories where God has worked through us!"
I was encouraged by the folks at Crossings Church, who are challenging each other to share their faith!
Knowledge, it seems, can only get us so far. "Faith without action," says James, "is dead."
God, I don't want to have dead faith. Forgive me for talking when I needed to be doing. Father, help me to have living faith! A faith that is backed by action! Help me to overcome the temptation to do "concept youth ministry" instead of the real thing!
Please note: If you blog about doing ministry, this is not written as a slam against you! As I mentioned earlier, I have talked about ministry on this blog also! I hope that we will be encouraged to start sharing stories of God working rather than just ideas and concepts.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
1. Everlasting God by Lincoln Brewster. (Just listen to it!)
2. Where I Belong by Mercy Me - This song means a lot to me because I really feel like I am where I need to be.
3. Make Me A Storm by Watershed Worship.
4. Watching You by Rodney Atkins - You can see the music video on YouTube. A song about a little boy watching his dad. Yeah...it gets me every time!
5. Anyway by Martina McBride. I teared up the first time I heard this song sung live on some music award show. Very inspirational. "God is great, but sometimes life ain't good. And when I pray, it doesn't always turn out like I think it should. But I do it anyway. I do it anyway."
6. We Trust in the Name of the Lord Our God
7. I Worship You by Sandra Corbett - I just learned this at the Tulsa workshop and it feels like I've known it for years. What a beautiful song!
OK, so I'll tag (if they want to do this)
Shane Coffman (let's see what a worship leader listens to!)