Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why I'm Excited About Unconference

Next Monday I'll be 1 of many youth workers converging on North West Dallas to fast, pray, think and create.

There are students all over our country and world that desperately need to understand and embrace the true gospel. My hope is that "unconference" would sharpen each of us to more effectively share the good news of Jesus' love to the students around us.

It's been a long time since I set aside a couple of days to pray and dream about how to see God's greatness passed to the next generation. Almost all youthworkers worth their salt long to see God's greatness passed to those who are younger.

Yes I'm excited. What could be more fun than hanging with men and women who love to do what I love? Here are some specific reasons why I believe this gathering will be huge for myself and those who serve students.

  • Prayer and Fasting.
We need God. Apart from him we can do nothing. Prayerful dependence on God will be the foundation of all we dream. God longs to show his strength to those who are needy. That's us.

  • Many Voices
As we learn, share and create together the wisdom of all who are there will be heard. As a person who longs to learn I'm excited to learn from my fellow youth workers who are making impact in those around them.

  • Hanging Out
I just returned form the NYWC and had a great time. The most enjoyable part for me was getting time with other youth leaders. Yes, the younger kids kept me out way past my bedtime but we had a blast. I think I'm just now recovered from little sleep.

If there's any way you can make it next week please come and be a part. We're trusting God is bringing exactly who he wants. We long for your voice to speak into the experience.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Thoughts From the Farm

It's really nice to be at my old house this Thanksgiving.

Growing up on a farm in Southeast Tennessee is quite an experience. As my family took a walk on the farm today I was flooded with all kinds of memories.

Visions of mowing the fields on a tractor, learning how to fish, riding my horse, climbing my favorite persimmon tree, picking blackberries, riding my motorcycle and playing tackle football in a field covered in cow patties where all very vivid.

(And yes, she thinks my tractor's sexy)

As I walked around the pond I remembered fishing for catfish with my best friend Todd. We would go to the pond around 11pm armed with rotting chicken livers and swisher sweet cigars. The piercing stench of the livers was overwhelming but the catfish couldn't resist, or the turtles. Poor Todd would always catch an snapping turtle but rarely a fish. Of course I never bragged.

My Granny taught me how to dig for earth worms and make sure I spit on them before throwing the bait into the pond. It really works! Grandpa would always promise to help me ride the horse but always had to "rest his eyes" for an hour or so before. His favorite phrase was "right now in a minute". "Right now" almost never arrived.

Today, the open fields are overgrown with trees and the pond is kind of stagnant and empty. The house my grandparents lived in is being rented to someone I don't even know, kind of weird. Both Granny and Grandpa have been gone for years now.

My best friend Todd died in the winter of 95 in a kayaking accident. I still miss him.

All this sounds kind of sad but I'm really thankful for the way I grew up. Sure, there has been heart ache in the past. In fact I have friends around the country right now who are going through deep waters, I'm in the game with them.

Spending a lot of time with grandparents is a huge part of who I am today, in fact all my experiences on the farm are a part of who I am.

All these memories cause me to savor what is happening in my life today. When we're young we rarely think about slowing down enough to breath in what is happening in the now.

It's hard to believe how much things can change in just 25 years. It's good to take time to remember and be thankful. A long time ago God was shaping me to be and do all he intends for his Name and glory. He's still working on me.

It all makes me wonder, What will thanksgiving be like 25 years from now? But instead of living in the past or wondering about the future, I want to take in all God has for me today.

I am graciously blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why NYWC is a dangerous place...

...well, at least for me.

In fact any place where there are other youth workers who do what I do can be a struggle. You see, I struggle with all kinds of pride issues. It seems God uses gatherings like these to shed a huge spotlight on the places that may be in the dark.

  1. I love to be noticed.
  2. I am naturally competitive
  3. I play the comparison game
  4. I typically feel I'm a little better than others
  5. I want to be seen as important
And yes, "I" was used with intentionality. Those of you who don't struggle with these same issues please don't judge, you have your own.

My hope and prayer for myself and others who struggle with insecurity and ego is that this weekend will be a time we genuinely walk in humility and "esteem others as better than ourselves". It is true, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

I can't afford to miss what I can receive from others and the little I can offer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Read Your Bible, Pray Everyday

At some point in my life I heard this little song. "Read your Bible, pray ever day and you'll grow, grow, grow. To be honest I hate it.

I know there is truth to the lyric, but it seems way to simplified to me. In my life a + b does not always = c.

For me to grow it is essential that I give attention to God's Word. It seems like "following Jesus 101" but sometimes it's hard to follow through. I fight daily to spend time meditating and praying through scripture. It is life to my soul.

Imagine what it's like for students. They are busier than I am, in school and usually find the Bible boring. Our goal over the last months has been to motivate and inspire students to love the Word AND to motivate them without having them read their Bibles out of moralistic obligation.

It's been difficult, but we're making good progress.

You see, over the last year we've learned that very few of our students spend any time in the Word. Without the constant flow of truth over their hearts and minds they're sitting ducks in a world that constantly pumps lies into their minds.

Sure, they hear good teaching relatively consistently, but that's not enough. My good friend David McNeely says when we just listen to others teach the Word it's like allowing someone else to chew up a great steak and spit it in your mouth. That's not really ideal.

So how do we inspire students to long for time in the Word? Here's what we've done so far. Please, please, please give input. Our ministry is on a journey that's not finished.

1. Emphasize the Bible in discipleship groups

Our 10:24 groups are reading curriculum that gives students understanding of the Bible as a whole. Their also reading a chapter a day and discussing it in their small groups.

2. Focus on the Word on fall retreats

We just got back from our fall retreat. The major teaching was on the power of the Word and why we should spend time reading it. We were careful to say God isn't mad when we don't read it but longs for us to know him.

3. Give students space to actually read the Bible

On the retreat we gave students a lot of time to read and study their Bible. We took two mornings and read through, studied, and discussed the book of Habakkuk. Believe it not our high school students ate it up.

4. Give student a place to communicate with others what they're experiencing.

I just created a blog called "Letters From God". It's kind of corny but reflects how we communicated God desire for them to absorb the Word to get to know God. Hopefully they will jump on line and share what they're reading, what jumps out, and how God is changing them. No one's commented on the blog yet, we'll see how it goes. Our middle school students simply jumped on facebook and communicated they had read their Bible that day.

What's worked with you to inspire students to love the Word? I would love to steal some ideas.