Sunday, June 22, 2008

My First 5K

I can now say that I've run and completed a 5K race! This morning I finished some youth group business by running the Siena/Francis House Race. You may remember my challenge to the youth group. You can read about it here.

The challenge was extended by one of our members (Dee Skillen) who pledged more money if I could run the race in under 30 minutes.

I can't say that I tried my best. I gave in several times to that little voice that says, "STOP!" My legs burned going up a steep hill, and my breathing was off. I finished in 36:38.

I was down on myself for a while, but here's the good news:

  • I finished!

  • I didn't finish last!

  • I had several good friends from church come out to support me.

  • In training, I have run 3 and 4 miles at a time. Last year, I could not run more than two.

  • Mr. Skillen graciously gave some money to World Vision anyway. He called it my "appearance fee." Thanks, Dee!

You can always learn lessons from life events. Today was no different.

When I reach heaven, it won't matter how fast I ran the race, but that I finish.

I will be cheered on by those who have gone on before me. I can't wait to see Sam in those crowds. I imagined him running beside me today.

If you want to gain better self-control, try setting goals for yourself. I have tried running before, but never gave myself a goal until this year. I plan to keep giving myself goals to stay motivated.

Give it your best, but be merciful to yourself if things don't go as expected!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Helping the Hurting

Last night, teens from Burlington, CO learned that one of their friends was killed when a wall collapsed on him. Please be praying for these young people as they will be going on a roller coaster of emotions, questions, and doubts for the next few days.

Helping people who are hurting is a tricky business. Some process pain differently than others. There are times during the past week when I have longed to be left alone. But there are other times when I don't necessarily want to approach others, but I want them to ask me how I'm doing!
This is a valuable lesson for me, as I have been telling the teenagers what I hear counselors saying: "You NEED to talk about this!"
While I believe that talking can be therapeutic, my expectation that kids are just going to call me up and say, "Franklin, I need to talk" is unrealistic. I myself haven't even been able to tell some people that I would like to talk!
Perhaps the best we can do is ask people how they are doing and give them lots of hugs. But don't stop the process here! After that, stay and talk. Just chitchat. If the emotions return, they'll talk. Being there for each other is a major key.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lessons Learned

Sorry for the selfishness of my last post. There is a good update, though! Yes, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church came to picket. They weren't close by. Nobody paid attention to them...not even the media. Ignorance, false holiness, disrespect, stupidity, and misrepresentation of God...these things did NOT win. Grace, mercy, hope, deep respect and love for the family, smiles toward Heaven, hugs, and giving all our concerns and fears to God...these things WON the day!

The family had a visitation on Monday night. There were two rooms, one of which held the open casket for people to pay their respects. I waited tensely for the teenagers to show up, knowing they were anxious about this. I had urged them to at least come and be with the family, but they were so scared of seeing Sam.
Here's the cool part...
When they finally got the courage to see him, some cried (which is good), but one or two of the girls just turned and said, "It doesn't even really look like him" to which an adult replied, "That's because he's not there any more!"
Jesus said in John 6:63 "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing." Indeed. The Spirit is what gives life to our bodies. Without the eternal part, our bodies have no uniqueness. It's so hard for us to grasp because the body is what we know.

I'm so proud of the teens in my youth group. They've been through a rough time. They have been forced to talk and talk and talk about unpleasant things. They have learned at too early of an age that life is uncertain and fragile. They have been calling and texting to check up on each other!! They've been hugging more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Keep Those Prayers Coming

Please pray for me as I am harboring a LOT of anger right now. It is not anger towards God, but anger towards some who claim to be His servants.
There is a certain group which plans to picket Sam's funeral tomorrow. We are going to do our best to ignore them. Our goal is to help the Thomsen family avoid them. They called our church a "leper colony." I left an online comment thanking them because a leper colony is exactly where Jesus would be.
They claim that Sam was never taught the gospel. They claim that we have spoken against them. Both statements are lies.
Sam knows a God whose love is immeasurable and whose mercy knows no bounds. Sam is resting in His arms even as we speak.
But my mercy and love drains with each hateful comment I hear from these people. They have succeeded in making me angry. Please pray that in my anger I do not sin.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Friend Sam Thomsen

There is nothing good about phone calls at 3:00 in the morning...

Unfortunately, there are no training manuals for what happened last night.

One of the bright young men in my youth group, Sam Thomsen, went to Scout Camp in Iowa on Sunday. Last night, his parents held their breath as they waited for information.

My heart dropped at 1:00 AM when his mother told me that Sam's name was not on the un-injured list. "However," she said, "we still have not heard the hospital lists."

But Sam was not on those lists either.

Sam lost his life in the tornado.

Today, there is a twisted feeling in my stomach. I keep expecting to see Sam jump out at me, smiling and poking me, trying to provoke a mini-wrestling match.

Sam was like everyone's little brother. He loved the Huskers (which resulted in many good-natured arguments between him and our Razorback preacher!) Sam had a never-ceasing smile plastered to his face EVERY DAY! I'm beginning to wonder if he ever had a serious moment in his life! Even while he practiced sermon delivery for LTC, all I had to do was crack a smile and he couldn't resist smiling back!

Most recently, I saw for myself that Sam had a wonderful gift of preaching. He crafted a beautiful lesson from God's word with no help from adults (beside his mom, asking him to correct the spelling!) His lesson was about his namesake, Samuel, and the way he listened to God throughout his life. Nothing could describe Sam better than that.

Sam loved helping other people. Last December, he went downtown to help feed and care for the homeless. In February, he fasted for 30 hours, raising money for World Vision to feed hungry kids.

Sam was a light everywhere he went. He was just one of those people who made your day better after you saw him. His sense of humor and kindness were evident to all.

Sam, I miss you, little brother. But I know you're wrapping up an awesome first day in heaven.

Monday, June 09, 2008


I gave blood today. And yes, maybe I'm bragging a little. But the way I see it...anyone who VOLUNTARILY allows their skin to be pierced with needles is a hero!!

And I didn't even pass out!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Church Visitors

What would you think if an atheist was invited to your rate it?

This is the premise of "Jim and Casper Go To Church." Author Jim Henderson paid an atheist writer Matt Casper to accompany him to several American churches to rate them. Their whirlwind tour took them to several megachurches, including Saddleback, Willow Creek and Lakewood. But they also stopped in several smaller churches, some community-based and even a house-church.
Let me warn you immediately: This book is hard to read for people who have grown up in church!
I found myself getting defensive several times, but I also found myself being convicted. Casper asks some very perceptive and penetrating questions about church culture:
  • Why should a church have to tell their people to greet visitors?
  • Why do churches preach inspiring messages like "Don't give up" to people who already have everything?
  • Does God want churches to use their money to build huge buildings and pack them with expensive fog machines, lighting, computers, and state-of-the-art A/V equipment?
  • Why don't churches build more health clinics, day cares and schools?
  • Why don't churches highlight what they are doing as much as what they believe?
  • Why do churches want unchurched folks to come to them instead of going to the unchurched folks?

Well, that's a FEW of the hard questions presented...don't wanna spoil the WHOLE thing for those of you who might read the book!

Sometimes, it's good to hear what an "outsider" thinks of church. It might hurt when you process what they are saying, but it's good.

So, how would someone "rate" YOUR church if they came to visit? (By the way, this is not necessarily a question for you to answer and BASH your church! Of course you may answer, but also keep in mind that YOU are a part of your church's culture! This reflection is for you, too.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Best Youth Minister

How old is too old in youth ministry? Are there years in one's life where they might be more effective than others?
I've been watching my youth intern and his interaction with the teens, and these questions started floating around in my mind.
There are times when I think...
  • The best youth ministers would be young, single people. They have lots of time (and not as many bills probably) to devote to teenagers. But then I remember when I was overlooked for one youth ministry position simply because I was not yet married. Unfortunately, there are still some folks who seem to put more trust in someone who is married.
  • The best youth ministers would be young, married folks. Notice the common denominator of "young" in these comments? It just seems like as a married person, I have more family issues to deal with sometimes, and don't have as much time to be out on weeknights.
  • The best youth ministers would have grown children. Again, perhaps they would have more time to devote to teenagers if there own children were away at college, or working their first job. Plus, they would have the added distinction of surviving the teen years with their own kids! I have a YM friend who just turned 40 (kids are now teenagers), and all of a sudden he's getting phone calls...offers to come serve at this or that church and speak at youth conferences.
  • The best youth ministers would be those who are up-to-date on youth culture. That way they can understand and converse with teens easier and more naturally. (I say "bust a cap" and my teens just shake their heads!)
  • The best youth ministers would be those who are extroverted. They speak easily with others. They always have something to talk about.

On and on the list goes. Here is an interesting clip featuring George Barna where he describes his research with teens, and what they really want in a youth minister.

Do I have to be hip? Do I have to spend every waking moment with my teenagers? Should I be dynamic and extroverted in order to get their attention?

The way I look at it, if I can make an eternal difference in ONE life, then I'm doing pretty well. I mean, even Jesus took twelve, spent extra time with three, and was betrayed by one!

You can spend your time wishing you were someone else, but then who would be YOU? It doesn't matter if you're introverted, fat, say dumb things every now and then, or even if you're allergic to peanut butter! Be yourself. Know your limitations and your strengths. Celebrate them! Serve God with what you have instead of asking, "God, why didn't you create me to be like THAT person?" (see Romans 9:20-21 on this.)