Maybe Our Best Work Is Yet To Come

 

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The Thriller by Hal Lasko. You can buy a print by clicking HERE

I had a momentary existential crisis watching the video below and thought I’d tap out a few thoughts.

We all are trying to put our best work out there no matter what age we are.  The video below features Hal Lasko. Hal is an artist and after his eyesight was diminished and he could no longer paint; his grand kids bought him a computer and introduced him to Microsoft Paint. He not only continues to paint at 97 years old, but is pushing forward with possibly his best work to come. One thing Hal says in the video challenged me,  “I have patience. You have to have patience to create art”. This is one of the many things I lack but is sorely needed if I  or anyone else wants to create good art.

I am a Pastor, so I paint using my words, both spoken and written. I have yet to achieve anything close to what Hal has done in my field, but I am not so much competing with Hal as much as I am competing with my own time line. Hal is 97 and is producing great work. I am 46 and am producing slightly better than average work. Maybe time and patience is all I need to produce what I want to produce. or maybe that’s an excuse for why I am not producing my best stuff now (If I just had more time, more..etc.) .

And maybe you’re like me. Frustrated and bored with waiting. Maybe I am a frustrated artist trying to rush to  paint my best stuff now rather than be patient with the life process; but my hope is that, like Hal, my best work is yet to come.

Are you doing your best work now? If not, why not?

What are you waiting on?

What are the “right circumstances” you need to produce what you know is your best/

 

6 Ways To Do Safe Youth Ministry

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Do you remember Gus Griswald  (Griswold) from the cartoon Recess? Gus was a worry worry wart of sorts. In one episode he earned the nick-name Safety Man from the kindergarteners he had to watch during the recess time. Gus spent the whole episode saving the kindergartners from stuff kids do and a few hairy situations. In another episode, Gus wants to get rid of all germs, preaching about their dangers, and wears a has-mat suit. Safety Man is a great moniker if you are taking care of small children but not such a great nick name if you’re a Youth Pastor, or a Christian.

In my younger days I told myself I wanted to be the “most dangerous” Youth Pastor ever. I wanted our youth group to be the “most dangerous” youth ministry in town. When I say dangerous I don’t mean it from the “putting my self or our kids in harms way” perspective; but dangerous in the spiritual sense. I wanted myself and our group to be dangerous to the devil and to conformity. I wanted us to represent the dangerous side of Jesus; to say what needed to be said and do what needed to be done without regard to our own personal “safety” or to what others might say about us. But youth ministry, life Christianity itself, has become safe.

In the discussions I have with youth pastors and I ask them what’s going on in their groups, they will tell me about all the programs and activities that are going on but nothing that says to me “Man, that is dangerous” . I am not saying that we should hand out scissors and have kids play tag. That’s a stupid kind of dangerous. Like the faction Dauntless from the book Divergent, I am not recommending we take needless risks that could get us in trouble or fired, although, if you are following Jesus this is not just a possibility but a reality. The kind of dangerous I am talking about involves becoming more like the Jesus of scripture and less like other youth groups. But, if you want to play it safe, let me offer you six ways to do it.

1. Do what every one expects of you and no more. (Stay within your job description)

2. Hang out with only the cool kids (even though it’s the sick who need a doctor, but who wants to get sick right? )

3. Create perfectly safe meetings that produce desired results (leave nothing to the Holy Spirit, He will really screw things up)

4. Don’t go any where or do anything that would risk your reputation.(Missions trips? Too far and cost too much money. Let’s play Dodgeball instead)

5.  For God’s sake don’t ask kids to follow Jesus, just ask them to believe in God and come to church every week.

6.  Preach about daring stuff from the Bible but never plan any of those things into your programming. (What are your crazy? Parents would eat you alive.)

That’s a good start. But I bet you could add to it. Finish the sentence, “If you want to have a safe you ministry….”

Looking forward to hearing your answers.

Life Hack: Learning To Waste Time Better

 

Mini wastepaper basket

My morning is simple. I have a cup of coffee, I read my Bible and/or devotion book, I write or blog for about an hour, and then I get my rear end in gear. Today I screwed all that up. I wasted time and I thrilled to report that I think I should waste more of it. What made this emotionally teetering rock tumble? Jerry Seinfeld.

I saw there was Super Bowl ad I missed with Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander reprising their roles from the T.V show Seinfeld. I was a fan so I had to check it out. I checked it out but what I discovered was that that this super bowl commercial was actually a short run of episodes of a show called Comedians In A Car Getting Coffee hosted by Jerry Seinfeld on Crackle.com. My clicking addiction kicked in and I was off watching more episodes. Here is the episode where my wasting time epiphany descended like manna from heaven

From Crackle: Larry David: Larry Eats A Pancake

This was not a waste of time for me, in fact it was the opposite, this was a soul energizer.

I am a tightly wound person. Everyone I know would tell you that. I structure my my life in a way that maximizes moments and my eyes are always on the horizon.  I am always thinking and people who are not always thinking, planning, and having anxiety attacks about the future bother me. Do they not know time is slipping away?

I sat and watched Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David talk, eat, drink coffee and talk about  life and here is why I need to waste more time

( No bullet points, it’s a radical move for me)

I need closer friends who like to waste time. I need friends who are not too busy to get coffee and talk about nothing, not ministry, not business, not what’s next. I want coffee to be an episode of Jerry Seinfeld, a coffee about nothing.

I need to waste time so I can laugh more at stuff that doesn’t matter. Life is occasionally grim and I need a place where I can laugh and waste time and get some perspective.

I need to relax. Can my life be that important? Can anything be that important. I live life at Defcon 5 all the time and it’s killing me. I have learn to relax and let go of some things or I am going to freak out or worse I will become like some older Pastor’s I know who are stressed out about everything and not enjoying the latter years of their life.

I need to recharge my batteries. I can’t do that when every part of my life is sucking away at me. Doing nothing means I am leaving room for something to enter in a new idea, an encouraging word from God,  or a funny video that turns into  blog post.

If you think wasting time is a waste of time, let me offer some scientific proof found in these articles

Go Ahead: Wasting Time Is Good For You

If You Are Reading This To Waste Time, Good Job!

I know the sacred scripture says “Redeem the time for the days are evil.’ but what if wasting it from time to time was redemptive for our own souls? I know many a man who spent their time saving the whole world and lost their own soul. May be they should have “wasted” some time on themselves and saved a few in the end.

If you want to waste some time in the future, hit me up.

Do you waste too much time? How?

Should you be wasting more time? How can you do this responsibly (or not)

 

 

 

 

99% of Youth Workers Don’t Have This

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Don’t have a youth group over 12 kids.

Don’t have a blog.

Don’t have 5,000 follower on Twitter or even a Twitter account.

Don’t have awesome facilitates.

Don’t have a budget.

Don’t play the guitar or any instrument for that matter.

Don’t have a web store with products to sell.

Are over the age of 40.

Are not professional youth workers. (They are part time and/or bi-vocational)

They might have one volunteer helping them  (if that)

They are the unsung and the unnoticed.

They will never get an award on earth for the service but watch out when they get to heaven!

They will never have an article in a magazine.

They haven’t written a book, let alone a bestseller. They will never write a book at all (but they probably should)

They don’t host conferences.

They don’t host online schools or mentor groups.

They pray like it’s completely up to God and work like it’s completely up to them.

They just love Jesus and love kids.

THAT”S what makes them GREAT youth workers.

If you are one of these, 99%. Thank you for all you do. You are Epic, you are good enough, and God’s love shines down upon you. You are effective in your own way and are making a difference in the lives of your students. You are second to none.

And those of us in the 1%, who have all that other crap, should serve the 99%

– With an attitude of humility

– Thank them profusely for their service

– Pray for and encourage them whenever possible

and

– Help them anyway we can to build the Kingdom of God right where they are

Thus endeth my rant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Have A Dream For My Youth Ministry

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Happy Martin Luther King Day to you. On this day we remember not only a great speech but a better dream. MLK’s  speech was not a list of How To’s or upcoming events MLK wanted to have in order to enact a civil rights law. He shared his dream and that’s all it took. If I am going to see any of my dreams come true for our youth ministry I need to be less of a planner and more of a dreamer when it comes to communication.

This quote from this article made me come back to the fact that plans don’t excite people, dreams do.

“He gave the I have a dream speech, not the I have a plan speech” Simon Sinek

So, if you allow me , I’d like to articulate my dreams for our youth ministry and maybe while reading you’ll find a dream of your own.

I dream of authentic worship; unprovoked, zero hyped, an all out love fest of God. I want our services to be Christ-centric not entertainment based. I’d love to see students who, through the Holy Spirit, come to an altar with out me asking but because they feel the need to repent, be empowered, seek answers, or just get closer to The One who loves them most. I dream of a band who is less interested in getting the music set right and more interested in leading their peers to the throne room of God.

I dream of students reaching out to their friends, not just to invite them to church but to lead them to Christ, their Christ, The One who saved them. I desire students to be aware, as their adolescent development will allow, on the spiritual condition of others. I’d love to hear testimonies of how they prayed with someone in their school for healing, salvation, and deliverance. I’d love to see Facebook status’ that read “I told my friend about Jesus today and they are now a follower of Christ. ”

I dream of students who love God’s word more than X-Box, food, sex, YouTube, and texting. I want to see a hunger in students to know the God of scripture and not just a few verses that will carry them through the day. I want them to see the Bible as the greatest story ever told and not just the story that gets preached to them every week. I want them to see it as a reliable guide and not a book of rules to follow. I’d love to see them launch their own small groups where they read and study God’s word without me launching it, promoting it, or leading it.

I dream of students who will lead our services and not be spectators. I have a dream that every leadership opportunity I offer on our ILead Station (formerly the Endeavor Board) will be taken and used including preaching the Word from time to time. I dream of students who don’t have to be asked to do anything but realize their small part contributes to the edification of the whole. I dream of a group of students transforming into the Body of Christ.

I have a dream of families being restored like Ezekiel’s dream of dry bones. I dream of working with them to see their families reflect the glory of God. I have a dream of whole families seeing their lives as missional rather than a day to day hassle. I dream of mom’s and dad’s who see the youth ministry as more than baby sitting but an equipping center to help their kids become all Christ has called them to be. I dream of seeing them as prayer partners and visionaries to reach other families in our community who desperately need the love and grace of God.

I dream of students whose passions and dreams move from mundane to miraculous.

I dream of a youth ministry known for it’s love not it’s lock ins. It passion not it’s programs. It’s faith not it’s fellowship.

These are big dreams, not on par with trying to end inequality as Dr, Martin Luther King eventually did, but my dream is no less valuable, no less daunting, and no less impossible with God’s help.

How how can I help you reach your dream or put your dream in motion?

Your Turn:

What are you dreaming about your youth ministry?

How are you communicating that dream to your students, parents, and pastor?

 

 

Pray Like You Have A Kidney Stone

 

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When the pain hit at 3:00 a.m. I thought I was dreaming about the time this girl kicked me in the groin in 5th grade. It was during recess and… o.k. that’s another post. I was not dreaming. I was in pain. I thought this pain felt familiar but I was not sure until went through a check-list of other things : hernia (no),  pulled muscle (no)  appendicitis (maybe, but no) it was a kidney stone. Let me just say that, a kidney stone will test your manhood and faith. I lasted four hours before I staggered into the ER at St. Vincents hospital. I was immediately escorted to a wheelchair and all I wanted was for the pain to stop. A single request. I wanted anything that would stop the pain, drugs, a hammer, whatever. I left the E.R. with my manhood shattered and broken., but I left with my faith in tact and a new appreciation for prayer, not just any prayer, but persistent prayer.

I am a professional prayer-er. I pray with kids at the altar, I pray at weddings, baptisms, and church pot lucks. I pray all the time but they are high and lofty prayers. I pray, the moment is over , and I move on. That is not persistent prayer because none of those events involved pain in my nether regions, throwing up, or the desire to die. I did not scream out, OH God! OH God! Oh God! PLEASE BLESS THIS FOOD!! PLEASE!” I don’t think the blessing of the meal requires this kind of persistent prayer unless you’re a middle school student in the cafeteria, but there are times when we need to cry out to God and be persistent in our prayers if we are to see anything happen.

Consider the parable Jesus told about the widow and the judge.

Also [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to [a]turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up). Luke 18:1

Nothing will turn you into a coward like a kidney stone, but nothing will make you prayer persistently like kidney stone. Metaphorically, the kidney stone  is our burden. It is the thing we cannot shake. It could be

– the salvation of a loved one

– a healing, your own or someone elses

– a problem or challenge that needs to be overcome

Persistent prayer is something that you cannot let go of or it will not let go of you. The widow had a spiritual kidney stone. She wanted relief, she wanted justice and she would not back down or back away until she got it for herself or someone she knew. If I had sensed that the nurses were ignoring me, they weren’t, I would have cried out louder like the widow:

 “And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, Protect and defend and give me justice against my adversary.” Luke 18:3

I understand that I cannot badger God against His will. God answers all prayers with yes, no, or wait and I am willing to accept any answer He gives, but I cannot stop praying until I sense where God is leading. I also think God looks at the passion level of my prayer.

16 Confess your trespasses[a] to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

My wife knew I was passionate about getting rid of my kidney stone. The hospital staff could see the intensity with which I wanted relief and they wanted to give it to me or else they would see me cry and whimper for hours. Once again, I cannot cry-baby an answer out of God and I don’t have to. He wants to answer my prayer more than I want Him to answer it but I also want to show Him I am dead serious about what I am asking Him for. Persistent prayer says, “God, I am not going away until I get an answer even if the answer is no.” But, look at what the judge said,

For a while he refused but finally said to himself, I don’t fear God or respect people, but I will give this widow justice because she keeps bothering me. Otherwise, there will be no end to her coming here and embarrassing me.” Luke 18:4

The judge gave in because the woman was relentless and, I think, the judge found a way, a loophole within the measure of the law to grant her request. Jesus called the judge unjust. We don’t know why he was unjust but it’s possible he did the widow wrong on purpose or maybe he owed someone a favor; whatever the reason he was fearful of having any of his “business” further exposed and be embarrassed by this woman.

Jesus goes on to say,

Won’t God provide justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he be slow to help them? I tell you, he will give them justice quickly. Luke 18: 7, 8

God can give us justice. God is a righteous judge, but my role is to be persistent and wait. Pray and wait. I had no control over my kidney stone. That stone had to pass and I had to wait for it to do it’s thing. If I am not passionate about what I am praying for, I don’ t know if anyone should grant my request, let alone God. Passionate, persistent prayer is what tells us our pain index is a on 1-10 scale. Passion communicated how desperately in need of relief I was to those nurses.  I told the nurse I was an 8 and that told them I needed pain meds NOW! Passionate, persistent prayers let us and God know we are in serious need.

When the stone passed and my crying stopped. The pain was over and I offered God, the nurses and the makers of drugs a sincere thank you. This episode of my life showed me I need to step up my prayer life from a 1 to an 8. I want relief physically, emotionally, spiritually, and professionally. I need to pray always and not quit until “it” passes and God lays something else on my heart. I get it God. Pray like I have a kidney stone. Lesson learned.

What is the pain index of your prayer life on a scale of a 1-10? Is this reflected in your prayer life?

Would you describe your prayer life as persistent and passionate? What will it take to get it there? Hopefully not a kidney stone.

I’d love your comments, especially if you’ve had a kidney stone.

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing The “What If” Game

 

What If 16 cover

I love stories. More than I love to see good stories portrayed in the movies or even reading good stories in a book, I enjoy creating my own stories. I just like to make stuff up or take someone else’s story and riff on it and take it to unimaginable places. Some of my favorite comics were a series called What If, as in the graphic above. The comic basically challenged our logical way of things. Wolverine vs Conan? What an epic battle.

My story is pretty average, unless I start to “What If” it.

What if I my dad had not died when I was young?

What if my birth parents decided to keep me?

What if I had never moved to Florida where I received Christ at a Christian Camp, met my wife, and continue speak at for the past 12 years?

Alternative story lines mess with us. In pop culture it’s called fan fiction. Fan Fiction are stories by fans about popular t.v. shows , books, movies, etc and they write on going stories using very familiar characters. Alternate history can be fun and mind blowing but it can also be scary.

What if I have that affair?

What if I say what I really think?

What if I quit the ministry? What would I do? Who would I be?

All of these What If’s get the imagination rolling in good and bad ways.

My guess is, all our story were made increasingly better when we encountered the Savior. For the disciples, I bet it was like half and half for them. They liked the miracles and being associated with Jesus but I bet that all came into question when that story turned into storms on the sea or feeling threatened by the Pharisees.

If you are reading this, you have a story. If you don’t like the way your story is going, good news, you’re breathing, it can change, it will change. Keep moving forward with Christ and let the story unfold. If we’ll stay with Jesus all the way to the end of our story I know the ending will be totally worth it.

What’s the scariest What If you can ask yourself?

What is the coolest result of asking yourself What if?

Have you ever changed the course of life by asking What If?

 

 

 

 

That Thing You Do

 

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That thing you do, your job, school, whatever,

that thing that

frustrates you

irritates you

sucks the life from you

is just that, a thing.

It’s the thing you do on way to the thing God is preparing.

It’s not the thing.

the thing that

excites you

energizes you

challenges you

But THAT THING is coming!

Next time you are down about that thing you do, remember, it’s not THE THING, it’s just the thing you’re doing until God opens the door to the next thing. His thing.

 

 

 

Letting Go Of Those Two Things That Will Wreck Your New Year

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Letting go is a hard thing for me. It’s on this day, the last day of the year, that I have to decide what to let go of. I can’t carry everything from last year with me in 2014. Two things  I know I have to let go of are my failures and my successes. Neither of those can go with me into the new year.

My failures are easier and more advantageous  to let go of than my successes. Who wants to drag a failure into the new year? I have to let go of

  • failed youth events
  • failed relationships
  • failed personal goals
  • failed business opportunities

The more difficult and the more dangerous things to keep are my my successes. Success in itself is fleeting but holding on to past successes gives me a false sense of security, that everything is alright when it might not be. I have to re-frame success for a new year because the challenges to achieving success will be new.

I think letting go is hard, for everyone, because we are  afraid. We are afraid that next year’s successes will not be as good as this years success and that next years failures will be worse than last years failures. We have hope issues.

Romans 5:1-5 comes to mind

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith  into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I guess then we have two options: Hold on to last years sin, last years dreams,  and last years failures and so sabotage any  hope of change in the new year or believe what God says about us in His word. Hope does not disappoint when it is placed in God and hope is the only thing worth taking into the new year.

Happy New Year everyone.

What are you letting go of for next year?

What is worth holding on to for next year?

 

My Successful Connection With Kids During Finals Week

 

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This past week was finals week for our students and with me just finishing the the first chapter of Love Does by Bob Goff it resulted in this crazy, impromptu  ideas

Finals week can be a stressful time for students (and parents) so I thought I would bring them a little joy, happiness, and goodies, I call it the Final Exam Emergency Kit.

I talked with parents after church on Sunday and asked what their kids favorite snack was. I took notes on my IPad and and a made a visit to the dollar store.

In the bag I included

– Their favorite snack

– A squishy ball which I recommended they use as a stress ball or to throw it whenever they are frustrated

– Pixie Stix – For that quick sugar rush

– Juice boxes – to wash down the pixie stix

– Glow sticks – I told them that if they got too stressed out they could break the stick, turn off the lights, put on some dance music, and go crazy for 10 minutes dancing around  and then go back to studying,

Each bag cost around $5 to make.

Here is the video and what I experienced after one visit.

Do you anything like this around finals week? Leave your idea below.