Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Return of the Prodigal Son

Last night I picked up Nouwen's Return of the Prodigal Son. I read the book years ago and it touched me greatly. As I opened the pages again my heart was renewed. I was reminded of my similarity to the son. It is the Father who has sought me and embraced me. My need is great. His provision is greater. I was brought back to the moment of that embrace. Why don't I live in the embrace of the Father? So often my life is a series of leaving the embrace of God and returning to it when I feel isolated and alone. What if life is better lived with the constant mindset of dwelling in the embrace of God? Wouldn't I feel more alive, more loved, more confident, and more secure? Wouldn't I be able to reach out to others more effectively?

Another author (Miroslav Volf) wrote about the embrace of God as a means of reconciliation between people. In a society of handshakes and politeness we have lost the pure joy of truly embracing one another. We often feel odd when someone we don't know hugs us. And if a person won't let go we become uneasy.

I want to live in the embrace of the Father. Constantly, deeply, thoughtfully and purposefully.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

As I have journeyed into this new ministry my new boss has constantly reminded me to dream big dreams. I have noticed that as people get older they dream less. Maybe it is because they realize that they no longer have time to accomplish those dreams. Maybe they have been jaded by years of dissappointment. It could be that they are settled in lives of quiet desparation. I don't want to finish dreaming big things.

When God called Abraham He told the old man that he would be a father of a nation. At nearly 100 years old the firstborn came. I can imagine that Abraham dreamed often of that nation as he gazed into the night sky. I believe Jesus "dreamed" of how one day millions of His followers would gather united under His leadership. Even John's vision of our future destination is a record of God's dream to reconcile humanity to Himself.

The men and women I admire are the ones who dream big...Really big! Not big in numbers or budget, but spiritual impact. I want to dream big for God's glory. Please, dream with me. Dream to see people come to know the Lord. Dream to live humbly before an audience of One. Dream to give of yourselves to others. Dream with me.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bon Voyage
Yesterday was the going away party from our old church. What a wonderful reception. There were plenty of students, laughs, and stories. I know this sounds really selfish, but it felt real awesome to have people validate the work I have been doing all these years. To hear it from students and co-laborers really made me feel like I had been doing a good job. I know that ultimately it should be about God's approval, but it is nice to be appreciated.

What struck me the most is two speeches made by two old men who I admire greatly. Both of them spoke well of me, but mentioned the impact I had on them. All this time I was just happy to listen to their wisdom and be ministered to. Bill and Mark, you've meant more to me than you'll ever know. Thanks to everyone else for stroking a guy's ego.

I think set aside times of validation and encouragement should be a regular form of worship in the church, not so much so I can be encouraged, but so that we constantly lift one another up. These times should be done regularly, not just when a person leaves a congregation. How much better would the church be if we spent regular time pointing out the way God works in the lives of others in a public setting? Can this be a form of worship too?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Highs and Sighs
I have officially finished my first ministry budget ever! I am actually proud of myself for accomplishing it. When it all came down to it, it wa about $200 less than what my predecessor envisioned.

On a sad note, I have been iPod-less for about three weeks now. Mine bombed out on me so I sent it back to be repaired. Today I received a replacement. So I went to retrieve my songs from my old computer and the new one took a nose dive too. So, now I probably have to get this one sent back and find a way to get my songs off my old computer. Ahh! I have grown accustomed to having music around and I almost feel naked without it.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

So much has happened this week it's hard to know where to begin. First, Wednesday was my first time with the new group. Things went really well. We had a praise and worship night. I am so impressed by the spiritual depth of some of these students. Depth mixed with craziness at times. Earlier that evening I was landblasted by a few dozen water balloons (a nice welcome don't you think?). I actually expect to be hazed frequently over the next few months and years. It will be pay back for all the times I toyed with my youth pastor.

The craziness came when just before we were about to start I walked outside only to find one of my leadership students on the roof ready to rollerblade off. My first thought was, "I am going to get fired on my first day." Then I kinda froze. We coaxed him off the roof and before I knew it a parent wisked him away to meet with the executive pastor and elder board who ripped him a new one. I should have handled the situation myself, but I was still shell shocked to be honest. It was a great wake up call about me being the one in charge of these students.

After that it was time for a vacation. Actually the wife and I had been planning a little get away, but decided to do a non-vacation. So we stayed in town and did all the cool stuff we don't normally do. Went to the zoo (saw a monkey play with himself), went to the mall and played video games at Gameworks, and last night we saw a Cats (minor league baseball) game. It was great. Since it was friday the 13th and the Cats scored 13 runs they gave away $13,000 (not to us). Afterward, they had a great fireworks display. In all, it has been a great week.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


So, I had staff retreat with the new church this past mon-tues. It was a great time and I really enjoyed myself. What I really enjoyed was the laughs shared together. If the last few days is any indication I am going to like working with this team. I felt free to let my true self shine through. I am really glad God has brought us to a place where we fit in and belong.

The highlight of the trip was the spotting of the mythical beast called the "Wesnaw" part sheep/part cow, all monster. One of our staffers said he saw a sheep the size of a cow in the woods behind our cabin. Intrigued, we went on a late night expedition to find this bohemoth to no avail. When we woke up that morning I saw the beast walking across the field and took off after it. The closer I got to the Wesnaw the more I realized that the myth was much larger than the reality. It really was a regular sized sheep. So we decided to chase after it! What fun.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

End of an Era

So last night was my last wednesday with our kids. I remembered early on that day that this was my sixth year working with middle schoolers. That means six years of wednesdays. Six years of silly games and gross foods and sweaty bodies. I have so enjoyed my time here. Some special things happened last night that I will never forget. First, my small group had a party for me and one of them made me a Hawaiian shirt cake. Also, there was a me look-alike contest, so a ton of kids showed up wearing the aloha shirts.

It was also the last time for me to speak, which was emotional. I got choked up when I shared with them that I believed in them and was proud of them. As I looked at the crowd of students I saw so many faces that I have watched grow over the years. I count it a privelege that God allows me to watch His work in the lives of students. Thanks to all who made the last six years a wonderful, wild ride.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Life as a lame duck

Sometimes I don't know what to do with myself. I am pretty much done here at my current church and don't officially start at my new church until May 15th. I feel bad for laying around the house a bunch and watching movies. I feel like I should get busy or something. Whenever I get these rediculous thoughts in my head I remember all the weekends I won't be able to relax. So, i will cherish my laziness these next few weeks and enjoy time spent resting and gaining strength for a weary summer.

I guess there is a false sense of urgency we Americans place on ourselves. We are so worried that we won't get enough things done or live life to the fullest that we cram a bunch of crap into our days. Jesus only had three years of public ministry took time to spend with the Father. Jesus was accused of being a drunkerd and glutton, perhaps people thought he was lazy too. Most of the time he would be seen at a dinner party at someone's house. We know for a fact that he had women financially support his ministry, so probably didn't work steadily. I imagine that if Jesus were alive today we would complain that He wasn't working hard enough to expand his ministry. Even Paul, who we would see as a classic type-a driven person, wasn't always on the go. He regularly spent extended periods of time in certain towns establishing churches. What better example than God's own commandments. God commanded His people to rest one day of the week. It was meant for refreshment and reflection.

So, I see our push for busy lives is more American than it is Christian. So, I will revel in my slothness for a while.