careful what you watch

We spent a glorious week in an almost-deserted OCNJ last week thanks to the generosity of some friends. Other than a Wednesday trip into NYC we literally hung out together all week with nothing much planned. There were a couple of days we didn’t even get out of our pajamas.

But Charlie discovered the magic of Danny MacAskill.

There’s a moment (3:10) in the film when Danny hops off his moving bike over a pencil, landing smoothly on his bike and riding away. We watched that (and other similar videos) repeatedly.

Charlie tried to re-create that moment tonight in our living room.

I was sitting on the couch holding Jase with my feet propped on the table in front of me. Charlie had been wheeling around the loop (living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, repeat) on his little plastic car. You really should see this kid powerslide through turns. He learned how to drift on his own. Anyway, I saw that he was eyeing the “tunnel” under my legs. He’s been known to shoot through the tunnel. But this time he had something different in mind.

He scooted toward me with all the juice a 3 year old can muster. Just as the nose of the car entered the tunnel, he took flight. He flung himself up and over my legs, hoping that the car would slide through and he’d land on it and roll away, just like Danny. But his push came at the expense of the car’s momentum, and the car slid backwards, away from his hoped-for landing zone. It didn’t matter too much in the end, as he never really cleared my legs. He landed with his midsection hung up around my knees. He looked disappointed, as though he really thought he could pull it off.

Jase and I giggled at the little man’s daredevilry. I want to foster that kind of risk taking attitude in my kids. I’ve started telling Charlie that we’re Adventure guys, and we’re supposed to do adventure things. Who knows what they’ll end up doing…

the kids from my first youth group are old

Out of the blue, he shot me an email. “Hey, I’m in your town for a conference.” I was totally surprised. He followed that with an invitation to revisit our glory days–He wanted to find a church van and renew a timeless tradition. Back in the days before seat belt laws (and common sense) every youth group trip to Norwin’s Skateland featured a no-holds barred steel cage match, with me and Jason each looking to drop the elbow of death or force a submission from the other. He’s a middle school principal now, and I’m not as spry as I used to be, so we opted for wings.

I was only his youth pastor for about 2 years and 9 months, but those were magic days. I was green and thought I had all the answers. I tried so hard to be the cool youth pastor. I couldn’t sing and play guitar at the same time, so I had to have some of the kids sing while I hacked away at G-C-D-Em on a beater acoustic. We played the lamest games. My teaching was clunky, awkward, and centered around CCM lyrics. I didn’t know a thing about leadership development or the purpose-driven youth ministry or much anything else.

But something worked.

Jason and I shared 2 meals over the course of the past few days. He reminded me that God has been gracious to use me to shape the lives of many teenagers over the past 25 years. It’s not about flash or style or cool or polished preaching. It’s not about fabulous facilities or great games.

God will always use people who are desperate for him, depending on him to move, committed to helping others connect to the Kingdom life.

So whether you’re 22 or 47, if you know what God has called you to do, do it with everything you’ve got. Get after it, and trust God for the fruit of your prayer, desperation, and hard work.

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this one rides in my guitar case

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we got better, I promise

And maybe, some day when you’re old, your old youth group kids will show up and remind you of how blessed you are. And how they grow up to be real men and women.

hard work pays off

I know that you’re wondering if it’s all going to be worth it in the end. Those long, tedious days plugging away…those evenings sacrificed, nose to the grindstone. Late night sessions pouring yourself into the process.

Believe me when I tell you that your hard work will bear fruit. The day will come when a harvest is produced. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatian church: And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I see it every day, in every bit of life around me. Reminders that the end result is worth every drop of sweat, every moment of pain, every sacrifice.

Today I showed you Kim giving it all she had, ironing a shirt for Jase’s first photo shoot.
Kim ironing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I show you the fruit of her labor.
Jase puke
Charlie blocksJase blocks Jase 1Charlie standing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Thanks to Amy Sliman (PAKS Photography) for her excellent camera work…and wipies.

Told you it would be worth it.

Hang in there, and don’t give up. Your season is coming.

I can’t post tonight

I was going to write something heart-warming and inspirational tonight.

But Duke and UNC are in overtime.

Our house is one big bundle of tension. Levi and Isaac are Dukies. Josie is a Tarheel fan. Kim and I lean to the lighter shade of blue if pressed for a decision.

Every possession elicits claps and groans from upstairs (Annabelle and Sadie are watching, too) and downstairs.

So I leave you with a touch of class from the pre-game–a moment of silent prayer for the loss of UNC’s legendary coach Dean Smith.

full house was wrong

We’ve got cousins visiting–one lanky 18 year old, and 3 spunky little girls. They rolled into the driveway Saturday. We’ve had a delightful visit, and it’s been fun getting to know them better.

I’ve known Wes all his life, and have a pretty solid relationship with him, but the girls were all born after Joe and Erin moved away. While I know them, I haven’t spent much time with them. So we’ve played a lot of games, read a handful of books, snuggled on the couch, and been as loud and silly as we could be.

Adding 3 to the “Charlie-stage” in the house has definitely created some added to the chaos around the Sublett manse. There’s a non-stop race around the loop through the kitchen/hall/living room/dining room. 3 little girls means 3 times the noses to wipe and potty-breaks to manage and jammies and drinks of water and shoes to find and stuffed animals to locate and cookies that need to be eaten…
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And we LOVE it! It’s been the sweetest visit, and I’d keep them for another week.

I just wish that Uncle Jesse and Joey Gladstone were here to give us a hand!

best day of the week

Thursday is quickly becoming one of my favorite days of the week.

Around noon every Thursday a bunch of us youth worker types get together to pray, plan, eat, or work on our youth ministry skills. I love the community that I find there, and always come away feeling refreshed, renewed, and challenged to keep gettin’ after it. The conversations that flow are real, vulnerable, encouraging, and deep. And I’m blessed to call these crazy folks my friends.

Then to top the day off, I get to meet with a bunch of the leaders who work with Calvary’s teenagers. Most Thursdays it’s our lifegroup, which is mostly comprised of Team XStreamers. But once a month all of Team XStream gathers for prayer and planning, with a side of Kim’s mac ‘n cheese. Tonight was that night, and it was solid. These men and women are the real deal. They love Jesus, love teenagers, and are committed to leading teenagers to love Jesus.

Kevin and Brandon

Kevin and Brandon are twinsies in their new Team XStream shirts.

I’m amazed at the growth that I have seen in our team, and in the unity that is developing in our town. I have to believe that God is doing good things, and that the best is yet to come.

I think we survived

It might have been the most awkward night of their lives, but nobody left the room screaming tonight when we talked about pornography.

The female leaders (led by my lovely wife Kim) shared some of their own experiences dealing with body image, acceptance, and lies girls believe/the truth that God wants them to know. These leaders are the real deal, and we are blessed to have them working with your daughters. The big idea is that when we understand and know God’s truth we can discern the lies and live according to the truth. I know that the young ladies were encouraged.

The young men met with me and the other guy leaders. I did most of the teaching, but the other leaders chimed in with some very wise and on-point comments. You could have heard a pin drop when I said the word PORNOGRAPHY. I don’t know if they’d ever heard that word in church before (although some of them pointed out that Pastor Dan mentioned it Sunday in his sermon.) We gave them the opportunity to write down questions, but the bigger opportunity for follow up is going to come in the conversations that will happen in small groups.

One young man came up to me at the end of the evening with a big smile on his face. “That’s the most awkward conversation I’ve had since I was 13. That’s when my dad gave me ‘the talk.'”

I’m ok with awkward as long as it leads to future conversations, hope being born in the hearts of young men and women, and freedom being celebrated.

i’m a sex talker

Yeah, that might get me screened by your internet filter.

There’s an old youth pastor’s joke that goes something like this: Do you know what the top 3 topics teenagers want to discuss in youth groups?

  1. Sex
  2. End Times
  3. Will there be sex in the End Times

At one point in my youth ministry career I felt the nudge from the Lord to be more intentional about teaching and talking about sex, both with students and leaders. Not long after that, Bob and Dannah Gresh invited me to be part of their Pure Freedom team, speaking to hundreds of teenage boys across the country about God’s call to purity.

Each year after that I’ve presented a series about love, sex, and/or dating to the students at XStream. Now we’ve got a house full of teenagers, and it seems like we’re always talking about some aspect of dating relationships, love, or sex.

We’ve been working our way through a series on dating, or the dangers of being OBSESSED with dating/relationships. Tomorrow night the young ladies will be discussing Body Image/Body Issues with the female leaders, while the male leaders will be talking about the lies of pornography with the young men.

As a youth pastor, I look forward to sharing some hope for freedom with the young men.
As a dad, I look forward to my sons and daughters hearing truth and being encouraged.
As a man, I look forward to sharing my story of freedom and trusting God for a breakthrough in the lives of our young men and women.

Here are the outlines we’ll be using tomorrow night. OBSESSED Session 3 Girls outline OBSESSED Session 3 Guys outline

XP3_Obsessed_S3BottomLineGirls XP3_Obsessed_S3BottomLineGuys

If you want more resources, click over to the youth ministry announcements page from the tab at the top of the page.

my good for nothing family

Today was yet another snow day here in Happy Valley. Our Super Bowl party was affected by the impending snowfall. Honestly, I think the snow missed us, but the icy conditions created the day off.

As I was thinking about what I’d write tonight, I found myself wishing that I had something spectacular or immensely cute to share. And there were a few moments today, don’t get me wrong. Charlie got a little hoppy frog game in the mail from Boompa and Pappy, which we played for a good while. Jase sat on the bed with me tonight playing a very simple game of catch (I’d toss the ball into his belly; he’d grab it and hand it back in my general direction.)

But for the most part, our day was nothing special. We ate together, played some games of Settlers and Mario Kart/Mario Baseball, read books, did homework/youth ministry work, and whiled the day away together.

As I reviewed the day in my mind, it dawned on me–this is what life is about. Family, spending time together, not doing anything special or fancy, but enjoying life together, loving each other, laughing and playing together. It’s pretty simple.

Family is good, even when there’s nothing going on.

I’d post some pics from the day, but I was having too much fun living the moments that I didn’t take any. I thought about it, truly I did. But I put the phone back in my pocket so I wouldn’t miss Charlie hopping the frog into the pond or Isaac crushing another homerun off me.

a break or a breakthrough

Moses can’t seem to catch a break.

I’m working my way through the LifeJournal Bible reading plan, and Moses has just led Israel (650,000 men and their families) out of captivity, out of Egypt, out into the wilderness. He’s faced down Pharaoh, court magicians, and an elite army bent on his destruction. He’s wrestled with fears and doubts, naysayers and obstacles. He’s literally seen God part the Red Sea and deliver Israel, drowning all those Egyptians who tried to follow them through the sea. Just after this God sends quail and manna to sustain the wandering tribes.

Now Israel is on the other side of the Red Sea, still wandering in the desert. People are thirsty. They begin to complain against Moses, calling for his head. Moses reacts by asking, “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?”

In yet another episode of ridonkulous provision, God gives Moses the authority to smack a big honking rock, and promises to give Israel water from the rock. Sure enough, everybody drinks their fill, and their anger passes.

Just when you think Mo’s going to catch a break, the warriors of Amalek attack Israel. Moses now has to coordinate a national defense strategy, run a feeding program, and navigate through the desert to a destination yet unknown to them.

Moses can’t catch a break.

And do you know what I learn from this? God’s not really interested in me catching a break, either. In fact, he likes to let us wander through deserts of desperation. He knows something we don’t: When I don’t need him, I live like I don’t need him.

And he knows that my life is better when I am connected to him. So he lets me (us) go through difficult days to make us grow, to make us lean into him, to develop a trust and a dependence and a hope that endures.

God doesn’t want me to have it easy. But difficult days can still be good days.

Maybe it turns out that I don’t need a break; I need a breakthrough.