Pray Like You Have A Kidney Stone

 

kidney-stone

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

 

44625267

 

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

quote

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

 

photo

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.

 

Westjet’s Extravagance Should Challenge Christians To Do The Same

 

westjestgiftsarrive

 

I was blown away  by this video and that an Westjet went this far to give back to it’s customers. You have to watch the video to understand the title of this post. For one flight, one day, they chose to be extravagant.

 

I am not saying that churches should go out and buy all it’s members whatever is on their Christmas list, but we should be extravagant with the love God has poured out on us through His son

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5

God spared no expense to save us from our fallen state.

He made big promises to frail humans and then strengthened them to accomplish those promises.

He gave his only begotten son, His best, His only perfect son, whom we celebrate this month.

He emptied heavens bank account to reach us.

He put our names on the gifts he offers us and all we have to do is pick them up.

Let us then be extravagant for the sake of others.

Let’s spare no expense to love others.

Let’s not hold back or play it safe.

Let’s pick up/receive the gift(s) He offer us.

Let’s be extravagant even if no one is filming it.

Let’s empty our hearts of all we are for all He is.

A song to sing in honor of an extravagant King

 

 

Lyric Inspiration For Rebels, Warriors, and The Discontented

 

openphotonet_through the trees1

sunlight breaking through dark trees

by: Adrian van Leen

 

Have you ever had a line from song get stuck in you head? I’m not talking about cheesy yet catchy lyrics like Don’t Worry Be Happy but  lines with weight and substance. I am starting  a series Here are a few song lyrics that lift me to a higher place, a place of hope.

I originally heard this line (the one in bold) in U2’s God Part II

When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime —
But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight —
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight

~Bruce Cockburn “Lovers In A Dangerous Time”~-

I find it funny  how a simple phrase like “Kicking in darkness until it bleeds daylight”  gives me a certain motivation and courage. Jesus did his share of kicking. He kicked at legalism, sickness, disease, poverty, loneliness, and even the grave. Kicking is tiring business but kick we must  until we see that glimmer of light peek through.

Tired of kicking at your church , your youth program, your own sin, depression, low numbers, mean church people and picky Pastors? Kick anyway. The darkness can’t last. The darkness has a weak spot and if y0u’ll keep kicking it will eventually give way and  light will come streaming through, and then you can tear it all down.

Have a lyric stuck in your head that’s getting you by?  Share it in the comments below.

Here are both songs.

First the Bruce Cockburn song- Lovers In A Dangerous Time

U2’s God Part II

Youth Workers, It’s O.k. To Be Happy With Your Numbers

 

Colored-Numbers-Original-340x250

Pic Credit

I don’t know the last time (if ever) anyone told you that it’s o.k. to be happy with your youth group numbers, but it’s o.k.. I’m happy with the number of kids in our youth ministry, right now, because that is who God has given us. They are fantastic kids on a journey with God. Yes, even the ones not practicing their faith the way I think they should. I am thankful for every kid who shows up. I haven’t always been like that. i used to commit the cardinal sin of say at the beginning of a meeting, “Where is everyone?” I had to stop doing that. To be ungrateful or unthankful for who is not there is to poke a finger in the eye of the students who are there.

Jesus had a set number of students. He had 12, 70, and a few more, but that was over a course of three years. In addition, he had a bunch bale on him ( John 6:60-70). Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, He thanked His Heavenly Father for what He gave him,  “I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word” John 17:6

Are you ungrateful for what you do not have? Then beware the three dangers the road of ungratefulness leads us to.

1. We put the kids we do have on a guilt trip for what we don’t have

This is not to say we should nor exhort our kids to share the gospel or invite their friends to church, but, we can lose the ones we have if we think their only purpose is to build our youth ministry. We can only offer opportunities for kids to engage and if they come up short we know where they’re at spiritually and that should prompt us pray for them and help mature them where we can and where parents give us permission.

2. We can become users and abusers

If we become so numbers driven, we’ll start to use kids in ways they were not meant to be used. Challenging kids to step our of their comfort zones is one thing, making them join the drama team or some other team just to bolster the group is not fair to that kid. Let kids find their natural God-given talents and work your growth strategy around that or create a new one. Forcing kids into our man-made molds and models is spiritually unhealthy for them and for us.

3. We could  become bitter when God does not “bless” our plan or outreach 

We are real quick to blame stuff on God when it’s our fault or we may blame ourselves over and over again but neither of those is a healthy position to take. Maybe we come back from a conference with a new plan or idea and when it does not work, somehow it’s God’s fault, as if God owes us a large youth youth ministry. A + B does not equal C in youth ministry. There are many lives with many destinies in our group. God will bring to us who he bring to for His glory, not ours.

“But what if my job depends on my numbers?” Then do a gut check. Ask yourself

1. Am I doing everything I know how to do to reach kids for Christ?

2. Am I trying  to learn or recruiting others who know more than me to help the youth ministry reach out?

If you are dong all you can do, relax and be thankful.

if you are looking for some outreach material that works, I recommend

The Hunger and Thirst Games, Rivals: A Three Week Sports Themed Outreach, and a bunch of great ideas from Jonathan McKee on his site

 

 

Is Your Mentor Calling You To Adventure Time?

 

adventurementoring

“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”- Jesus.

I’m a sucker for anyone who can say, “I’ll make something of you.” Maybe this is why I got sucked in MLM (Multi Level Marketing) for a time. When you meet a millionaire who says they can make you make money and that I could make other people make money, I was intrigued. But, as impressed as I was, shockingly I was not motivated to make money. Money was too small a prize.

I left college after three months because academia and the whole college vibe felt homogenized and safe. To be really honest, I was bored. Maybe this is why, at 20-21 years old, I shipped myself off to a year long discipleship school called Masters Commission 3,000 mies away. The adventure of driving across the country in a my Ford Galaxy, with vinyl seats, no air, across Texas should have been enough adventure. What I loved about my year in Phoenix was that i did not know what was going to happen next. One day we were doing outreach in the barrios the next were visiting nursing homes. Our leader, Lloyd Ziegler, was wild and frenetic and you never knew what he was going to say or do, but you knew it was going to be fun and full of adventure. I loved it. It was, maybe, the best year and education of my life.

Jesus said., “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.”. The four disciples, who were fishermen by trade, possibly thought, ” I’ll catch men? O.k., not my speed by I’ll go with it.” or “What do I do with these men after I catch them? Do I clean them, cook them, and eat them?” They left fishing and went on a journey, an adventure.

There is something in a man’s heart that leaps for joy when someone says, “I see potential in you.” That’s what Jesus saw in all he called. He said, “I find you worthy of my time and company.” Jesus calls us to a one on one mentorship when He calls us to follow him. He mentors us through His Holy Spirt who is the Master Mentor

  • He will guide us into what is true (John 16:13)
  • He speak was is true and not just the wisdom of the day (John 16:13)
  • He can tell us what to look for down the road (John16:13)

As youth workers, we call kids to a great adventure in knowing Christ. We take them on mission trips, camps, retreats, events, etc. all for the purpose of “talking with them along the road” – Luke 24:32  I think many kids reject our call to Christ because we lack adventure. Much of what I offer, in the way of outcome, is in the small end of the pool.

So, if you’re looking for a ministry mentor, take a tip from some young men who who were willing to leave all to follow Jesus.

  • Look for a mentor who offers a skill (I will make you).
  • Look for a mentor who invites you to, and can deliver on, an adventure.
  • Look for a mentor who excites and scares you.
  • Look for a mentor who leverages every resource they have to offer you God-Moments

Maybe this is why I have not found a mentor. I haven’t found the right ministry mentor because the rewards offered are too small. The calling too tame. Yesterday the Holy Spirit made me turn my car around to go to a gas station where I had been stopping to get coffee a few times a month, to talk with, and eventually pray with a woman who was going through a hard time. I am thankful for a God who still mentors us with nudges towards adventure.

When was the last time a mentor challenged you?

What was the most exciting/scary thing a mentor ever asked you to do? How did it go?

Click HERE to go to the next post in this series: 6 Youth Ministry Coaching/Mentoring Sites To Check Out

 

You Do Have A Choice: Quitting, Pivoting, or Persevering

 

Let me begin by saying, I am totaling ripping off the title to one of my favorite business podcasts of late called Fizzle. I must warn you though, if you listen, it will have some salty language sprinkled through-out. That being said, the podcast rocked my world in two ways.

1. It made me think about our ministry

The podcast made me think about quitting, pivoting, and persevering in ministry; and not just youth ministry but the ministry of blogging (do I do that? Let me know) or You Tube videos, or whatever I do. Ministry has many outlets and I like to take advantage of as many of them as I can.  It keeps me from becoming stale.

The topic of quitting, pivoting, and persevering made me think about youth ministry programs and attitudes I need to quit. One such attitude I need to quit is creating something that’s my idea vs God’s idea. Not all good ideas are God ideas, they’re just my ideas. Whether I can create a program does not mean I should create it. I think if I would just follow the Spirit’s rhythm, the dance would go much smoother.

There are some things iI need to pivot in. Pivoting is simply a shift in a another direction. Worship is an important value of our youth ministry. We have had a band for the the past three years and now we sing to videos. To some that may look like a step back but in reality it is a pivot. We couldn’t just raise up a band. The talent pool was just not there. So, instead of just not doing worship, we do worship videos and the kids are highly engaged.

I have a retreat weekend coming up that we have tried to pull off for three years. This may go back to creating something I want vs the Spirit, but retreats are something I think students need. I tried to design the retreat to fit with the culture I live in so kids would adapt to it much easier. If this year does not work out the way i planned, I will pivot, not quit. I will change locations, model, or whatever. If that does not work out, I will just have to quit this type of retreat and do something else.

Finally, there are things I have to persevere with, or push through. Students taking leadership and ownership of their ministry is  a drum I will bang loudly and often. There are times in the those programs that I will have to pivot because of the number of kids interested or not, but students leading is something I will never quit.

2. Disciple Project Ministries, The Blog

This piece you are reading is only one piece of Disciple Project Ministries. Like I said earlier, I do You Tube videos, I give away freebies, and I have my own youth ministry store. I don’t do all of these for applause or for, God forbid, money, because there isn’t any. Not for a small time blogger like me. But, I persevere. Why? Because I think I have a voice, a point of view, an opinion worth sharing, not arrogantly but gracefully.

I am deciding to pivot in my blogging, God knows I have thought about quitting, by expanding the conversations beyond just youth ministry. I feel like my writing has become myopic over the past year, and If I feel that way, then my readers may feel the same. I find Jesus and faith in a lot things, music, movies, etc. and I want to talk about those things as well and how we, believers and youth workers,  can use them to surf the culture versus being drowned in it.

For those that read this regularly, and I have no idea who you are, I hope you’ll enjoy some of the changes. If not, there are plenty of other great youth ministry blogs out there to enjoy. For those who stick around, I want to have a caffeinated (stimulating) conversations about life, ministry, culture, the church, politics, and all those other things that make us human. I hope you’ll grab a large latte, double shot, and join me.

How about you, are you feeling the need to pivot, quit, or persevere in some aspect of your life or ministry?

What things do you need to quit in your ministry?

Where do you need to persevere?

Where do you need to pivot, change direction?

Leave me a comment below. I’ll choose the most caffeinated (stimulating) comment and send you a Starbucks (or whatever your favorite coffee is)  voucher.

Let’s begin.

 

 

 

160 total views, 1 views today