The Importance of “Hey! I Missed You”

I love telling kids I miss them. Now, I don’t necessarily like that kids were missing from the event or meeting but I love to tell them that I missed them. I know how it makes me feel when someone misses me. They are saying, “You are valuable. You presence is important and we know when it is not among us.”

If you are not telling kids they are missed, shame on you. You’re missing an opportunity to affirm a kids existence. You can take this to the next level.

I do my best to text parents the next day to let them know I missed their kids. I also tell them in person and they know me well enough that I’m not making a big deal about attendance. I am telling them that I value their kids. I have an opportunity to tell parents that I value what their kids bring to the youth meeting/ministry

Presence – They make a difference in our group

Leadership – Their example/influence makes a difference.

Servanthood– They offer their gift of practicality and helps.

Voice – They add value to our worship and ministry time

Compassion – They have open hearts and welcoming arms

Communicating with parents about the value of their children, to you, the ministry, and the world, is just as powerful as telling the kids themselves.

It’s a lonely world. Kids need to hear it. Parents need to hear it. You need to hear it. “Hey! I missed you.”

For more on the loneliness epidemic, listen to my interview with Tim Eldred: Alone Sucks

 

If You Love It, Make It Better

I am currently reading Brene’ Brown’s Braving The Wilderness. There’s a quote  (among many) that really spoke to me. The quote’s context deals with living in the tension of taking an opposing view. In this case, it was a Penn State athlete who supported the victims of Jerry Sandusky abuse and Joe Paterno’s silence.

The quote was

When you love a place like Penn [State], you fight to make it better, to own our problems and fix them. You don’t pretend everything is ok. That’s not loyalty or love, its fear.

I imagine it wasn’t easy for this person to take the victims side when there was an avalanche of support for the head coach Joe Paterno, but, because he loved Penn State, he wanted to make it better. That meant disagreeing with the masses.

This says so much about how I feel about The Church, God’s Bride. I see so much potential in Her, yet I am so mad with her much of the time. I could replace the word church with Penn and it would describe perfectly how I feel about The Church.

When you love a place like The Church, you fight to make it better, to own our problems and fix them. You don’t pretend everything is ok. That’s not loyalty or love, its fear.

When we do not speak up, when we do not challenge the status quo, when we avoid rather than offer our suggestions, we do not love that thing. When we do not try to make a thing better, it is because we fear the push back and the resistance.

How much do I love the Church. I have loved it enough to fight within it’s walls and I love it enough to know when to move on. The Church is not ok.  If you love the church, your church, take a position to make it better.

Why I Won’t Hold The Hand of A Dying Church

It just hurts too much. I’ve been a part of a few churches where I saw it happening in front of my eyes. Why is it that the number 2-4 guys can see it but not the number one guy?

I’m not built for it, emotionally that is. I can’ stand to watch things die. This probably goes back to watching my dad die of cancer. It was a slow and emaciating death. There is a cancer in many churches

  • lack of vision/leadership
  • the inability to get rid of idiots
  • silence
  • pretending that the church is not dying and doing nothing aka apathy

No matter what the cancer is, I don’t want to watch it happen. When I was 12 a neighbor asked me if I wanted a dog. I said no, because I had dropped a dog when I was little and it had to be put to sleep. I told them, “I’d probably just kill it anyway.” It may be the reason I won’t pastor a church. I’d probably just kill it.

I don’t understand it, death that is.  Maybe I’m still too young. At 49 I have more life still left in me and those in dying churches are in their 70’s. That’s not an official stat, it’s the average age of those in the dying churches I’ve worked. Regardless of all the stupid crap I’ve seen, I still have some optimism and faith in me. Not in myself, mind you, but in God.

I’m not special, not like hospice nurses. Hospice nurses have a special calling. They meet the needs of the dying. Both recognize that death is a reality and, barring a miracle, inevitable. Day after day, nurses bath, give meds, talk , and make the inevitable more comfortable. I respect them and I respect the pastors who can stay with a church to the bitter end. I’m not that guy.

I just don’t believe communities of faithful people have to die. I understand that every organization has a stopping point. Amazon caused hundreds to go out of business. Toys R Us will be closing soon. Every business fulfills its purpose and moves on, but not the Church. The Church was built to last and will last in whatever form it takes.

Maybe churches are the same in respect to change. Toys R Us could have been the world wide online toy deliverer, but they were too slow. Books A Million could have been the word wide book deliver, also too slow. The Church is and can be the greatest deliverer of hope there has every been, but to many are to slow to change. To weak to change. The Amazon church has gobbled them up.

I don’t blame churches for dying any more than I blame a human being for dying, except if it could have been avoided. Smoking causes cancer. Drinking too much leads to alcoholism and  liver failure. Bad eating and not exercising leads to obesity and heart disease. All can be avoided. Churches that are dying could survive, but it’s like they don’t want to.

I can’t bear to watch the church throw away it’s potential and its’ resources on crazy “get well quick”experimental drugs (programs, trends, snake oil, etc.) rather than do what keeps them well, prayer, evangelism, serving the poor, worship, neighborhood outreaches, killing their ego, and getting rid of cancer causing toxins.

What do I know. It’s 4:40 am and my heart is heavy for the dying church, that community that Christ died to fill with power and will marry one day. I just don’t want Him marrying a corpse.

Trying Something New For Lent: The Prayer Wheel

I had no plan for Lent this year, which is odd for me. I grew up Catholic, became a Protestant Youth Pastor, but still love many of the observances I grew  up with. I normal do a Facebook Live devotional or fast something, and none of these things appealed to me or even came to mind.

My slippage of memory could be because Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday have fallen on the same day this year. I’m in weird place right now, almost a lame duck feeling that presidents get in their last term in office. I just can’t move forward until I’m through whatever I am in.

I came across this article by Jana Riess where she said,

I’ve done it all: given up meat. Given up chocolate. Given up TV. Given up unnecessary spending.

And then after many years of those small sacrifices I gave up the giving up, because it wasn’t “working” – it wasn’t bringing me any closer to God, however good it may have been for me on the self-improvement front. Lent isn’t about self-improvement; it’s about a journey to God.

This really resonated with me. I’ve done Daniel Fasts, Social Media fasts, etc. etc. and each had their value. Jana then began to share about a medieval prayer wheel that was discovered  that seem to have seven weeks of focus.

No one knows how the actual prayer wheel works but Jana has written a book on how she might think it works or has created her own way to use it. Either way I am intrigued and for the next seven weeks I will be writing about my journey, with the prayer wheel as a steering wheel, toward God.

Today is day one and, as per instructions on the FB group, I repeat the words, the declaration, surrounding the circle

“The order of the diagram written here teaches the return home. ”

Today’s question: In a word or two, what do you want/need “home” with God to be?

My answer was: Community. Home is where people gather around the table for discussion, food, laughter, and games.

I thought about heaven today. I told God what I wanted heaven to be. People always say there will be no death, dying, or sickness which is all great, but the one thing I look forward to about heaven, is that I will never be alone again. There will always be someone to talk to, someone to hug me, or someone to cheer me up.

Maybe there will be lots of round tables, with coffee of course, filled with people to have interesting discussions with. Although I will know God as I am fully known at that point, I won’t know the other people in the same way, which means I can get to know a whole new group of people who are happy to talk and share and no one sits at a table alone.

What is home to you?

It’s My Fault

It’s my fault

It’s my fault if I have a bad attitude
It’s my fault if I didn’t accomplish my goals
It’s my fault if something doesn’t get done.
It’s my fault if I am not where I want to be
It’s my fault if I feel the way I feel
It’s my fault if people overlook me
It’s my fault if I don’t like the state of my relationships
It’s my fault if success is escaping me

It’s my fault, even if it’s not my fault.

I refuse to give anyone else control over my life by blaming them.

The goal of the post is to blame ourselves so that we work harder on us and less time trying to fix/blame others. Because the only people we can improve upon is us.

Own your stuff and then make changes, not before.

Keeping Your Church From Becoming A Museum

 “I think you have too many dead things in your museum, Daddy.”  – From The Greatest Showman

I went and saw the Greatest Showman with my wife for our 27th anniversary. I don’t mind a good musical, West Side Story, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, etc. and I enjoyed this movie, except for all the singing. Ok, that’s not true but I did enjoy when Hugh Jack man broke out his claws and killed all those guys for mocking his performers. Ok, that’s not true either. That’s what I wanted to happen. It would have broken things up for me.

There was that line in the movie where PT Barnum’s daughter bluntly tells her father, “You museum has too many dead things in it”. His other daughter chimes in with something to the effect of, “Yeah you need more things that are alive.”.

I instantly thought of many churches where was no life. Churches invite people to a weekly service to observe dead, lifeless, rituals and to pay to enjoy them.

Let me say, I’m Pentecostal, and although Pentecostal churches can be a lively bunch, there can still be so many dead things. Dead customs, dead songs, dead preaching, dead worship and the list goes on.

The chorus to the  best song in the movie, Come Alive,  says

Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up
To the sky
And it’s open wide
You’re electrified

While this whispy sentiment reflects the heart of PT Barnum’s “freaks” who come alive through, as Oprah says “living your truth”, I think there’s a better chorus from another song called Come Alive (Lauren Daigle) , that reflects God’s movement in the church

As we call out to dry bones come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes let us see an army rise

We call out to dry bones, come alive

If the church is to avoid becoming a weekly museum that people attend, we’ll need more than a new attraction, a new freak show to impress the circus goers. The church does need “freaks”, the lonely, the disenfranchised, the tattooed, the unusual, and the broken, not to show off their “freakiness” but because God is present and calling them to rise from the ashes and be transformed. That’s how the church comes alive.

The church stops being a museum filled with old stories when new ones are being written.

 

When Your Number Is Called, Be Ready

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I was watching the College Football National Championship  between Georgia and Alabama last night and wow, what a game. It was 20 to 7 at some point and I thought, “Man, is Alabama gonna lose this game?” Not if Nick Saban had anything to say about it.

In a surprise move, in the second half, Nick Saban replaced his starting quarter back Jalen Hurts with freshman Tua Tagovailoa. This is exactly what his team needed, a spark. 

The saying, “What got you here won’t get you to the next level” came to mind as I thought about the quarterback switch. It’s true. Jalen go them to the National Championship. Jalen was 25 and 2 entering this game, but he wasn’t going to win this game for Alabama.

Tua, had not taken a snap all year. He didn’t win any games. He just worked, practiced, and stayed ready.

I think of Biblical heroes who waited until their number was called, people like David. David was shepherd boy who had served faithfully As part of his preparation, he occasionally killed a lion and a bear. Then came the day his number was called.

The prophet Samuel shows up to David’s house and anoints David King of Israel. He is King in word but doesn’t have the position yet. Then, David’s number is called. He says, I’m ready to slay the Giant Goliath and take Israel to the next level.

Maybe you’re like David. You work hard. You’re a team player, but you are one of many. My advice, stay ready. Someone’s going to call your number.

I Was Not Living In Reality

And that has caused me a ton of frustration. This quote from Gary Vaynerchuk  is stuck in my head,

“The reason you are so frustrated is because you are living in the way you want the world to be rather than how it really is.”

All I could think about was how things should be

How I thought my work should be

How I thought my relationships should be

How I thought the church should be

and every time I thought about it, I got angry and stayed angry. This kind of wishful, wanting thinking was ruining my day and my life.

I had to face it, life was not as I wanted it. People were not as I wanted them to be. It’s hard to love people as they could be because of the glaring shortcomings all of us have. It’s much easier to love people as they are and journey with them.

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. – Nikos Kazantzakis

I cannot change my reality, at least not all once, but I can change how I see reality. I need new eyes, and that is my prayer. Brandon Heath, in His song Give Me Your Eyes sings,

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.

I want a new reality, but I need new eyes, first, to see the reality I am in.

18 Things I’m Not Stressing About In 2018

The size of our youth ministry. I’ll love whosever comes.

What others say. Words. Just words.

The future. God’s already there.

New technology. It’s continues to evolve and I can jump in any time.

Social Media. It will serve me. I will not serve it.

My weight. Care not obsession.

People who don’t get me. Their loss.

Politics. No one is 100% right.

Keeping up with everyone else (I got my own race to run).

What people think I should think. Shame is no way to treat someone.

Guilt and shame. Jesus took care of that.

Perfection. I’m just gonna write and ship my stuff to my tribe and hope others find it as well.

My e-mail list. It’ll grow when I pour more love and care into it.

Success. I’ve already achieved success. I have a great wife, three great kids, God loves me and serve an amazing group of kids. What else could I need?

God’s will. I’m living in it right now. If He wants to move, I’ll move with Him.

Equating work with value. I’m much more concerned with who I am becoming than what I achieve.

Spiritual achievement. For who? Not you. Becoming is a journey not a destination. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

How others will judge me. I’ve built a body of work over the last decade. In the end, I hope it’s blessed a bunch of people, trained a bunch of youth workers, and equipped a bunch of saints. History, and, more importantly, God, will judge me in the end. My legacy is His glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 Things I Learned In 2017

I decided to do some reflecting on the past year, on a personal level, and this is a list of a few things I learned.

1. Dreams do come true, as I spoke at the National Youth Workers Conference.
2. My romanticism, about certain things, runs deeper than I thought.
3. I’m a better writer than I thought, but I have a long way to go. 
4. My real fight is against the pull to be average
5. I let myself become frustrated at small things I cannot change.
6. I learned, through ancestry.com that I am not Irish, but 40% British, 30% European Jew, and the rest Irish/Scottish/Scandinavian
7. The youth group I serve is pretty amazing (I kinda already new that)
8. I’m not looking forward to turning 50 next year.
9. I may not be “good enough” to make it to the “next level” and it will take far more work to improve my chances of making the next step.
10. I quit believing in a personal destiny, where I believed I should be at certain place by a certain time. Giving up this idea has freed me up to be wherever God would have me to be.
11. I have to lean into where my life is going versus fighting it.
12. I need to broaden my horizons when it comes to relationships and contexts.
13. The fight against isolationism is real.
14. Improvisation is better than scripted.
15. Doing Facebook Live is rewarding but more taxing than I thought.
16. I was very consistent in creating content across multiple platforms.
17. God continues to be faithful when I am not.

What did you learn in 2017?