adventure is where you find it

Charlie and I are adventure guys. That’s how I’ve been describing us to him for the past 6 months or so. I use that terminology when I’m talking about taking walks in the woods, climbing big mountains, or helping out around the house. I want him to look at life as an adventure to be lived, and I figure I’d better start laying that foundation.

A few weeks ago I read an article about microadventures. You can read that article here. I found myself nodding my head (yes!) as I read, inspired and more than ready to embrace the adventures that lie within my everyday reach.

So today on our way to pick up Sadie from her Shakespeare Camp (shows are a week away!) Charlie and I left the house 15 minutes early. We just beat the 4:30 closing time of Lion Surplus, Penn State’s clearinghouse for electronics, office furniture, and interesting odds and ends. We spent a glorious 15 minutes roaming around, gawking at size 17 football cleats, 20 old kayak paddles, and piles of old computer parts.

As if rewarding our adventurosity, one of the worker men gave Charlie a creamsicle as we made our way out the door. He thought it was great–until it melted all over his hand…and shorts…and car seat. He’s a mess, but he’s growing an adventurer’s heart.

Life is supposed to be an adventure. You might not be able to get away to the Grand Canyon–or even the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania–but you can live the adventurous life. Find adventure in the familiar.
Charlie dreamsicle 1 Charlie dreamsicle 2

hitting the sweet spot

Several months ago my good friend and fellow youth pastor Jarrod Sechler suggested that we simplify things of our Metro Worship nights. We’d been trying to include a game, worship, teaching, and prayer as part of every united youth group meeting, and that seemed like a lot to throw into one night. So we opted to focus on worship and prayer, giving students more opportunities to pray together. That means less time for one of us youth pastors to spend talking to them.

And that’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

Tonight’s attendance at Metro was a little lower than we’ve been seeing. That’s to be expected. A few of the groups we usually see weren’t able to join us tonight. It’s summertime, which means lower attendance for youth groups in general as families hit the road for vacation, students forget that it’s Wednesday, and other conflicts arise.

But the general feel in the room tonight was good. Lots of students spent a good portion of the night actually praying together. And the worship was sweet! As Jarrod and I sat on the edge of the stage watching our groups mingling, praying together, asking God to move in our town, praying for renewal in the Church and revival in the town.

This is the good stuff–our sweet spot.
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your life is a mist

Those were the words that Andrew Wingert wanted us to consider tonight at XStream. We read Psalm 39, where King David is asking the Lord to help him understand how fleeting life is, and how that knowledge should affect the way he lives.

Thousands of years later we find that not much has changed in some respects. Our lifespan is still about the same as it was in the days of the ancient Hebrews. Even with the advances of modern medicine (and all the health and  fitness posts on facebook!) our lives are still incredibly brief in light of eternity.

Right in the middle of the psalm (which is a song) David sings the line:
Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.

He knew–he understood–what really mattered. When our lives are focused on loving God and loving others, when our hope is tied to our relationship with our heavenly Father, we truly find ourselves living the life God dreams about for us.

Life is short, no matter how long the days seem. I want my life to count, and want to make certain that I’m focused on the things that matter most.
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one of the best weeks of the year

About half of my leaders will miss youth group this week. A good chunk of students won’t even bother to show up. And I couldn’t be happier.

This is SPORTS CAMP!

A few years back our church started offering a sport camp as an alternative to the traditional vacation Bible school. Our town is a sports camp town, so it was a good fit. We have coaches working with campers to learn skills in football, basketball, soccer, and dance. There’s also a gospel lesson, and the message of Jesus will be presented this week.

Each year the camp draws more campers, and a good number of them aren’t connected to any local church. This might be the first time that they ever hear that Jesus loves them!

Josie, Lilly, Isaac, Annabelle, and Sadie are helping staff the camp. And they’re loving it! It’s been fun seeing them studying the lessons that they’re teaching, learning the choreography for the songs that they’re singing, and praying for their campers.

Kudos to Calvary’s Kid’s Ministry leaders and the plethora of volunteers who make this camp happen. It’s a good thing!

This is a shot of some of our teens sticking around after camp Monday night to pray together. As a dad and the youth pastor, I have to admit that I got a little choked up seeing this take place. I love these young’ns.

Ali leads prayer

lifegroup should give you…

LIFE! Ours has found it’s rhythm over the past few weeks, and it’s an encouraging thing to behold.

We’ve recently added some new folks to the fold, and we started reading/discussing the New Testament portion of the LifeJournal Bible reading plan. It’s the most simple of structures for lifegroup. Each day we read and journal about the passage. When we get together on Tuesday we each share the verse(s) that stood out to us in our reading.

Last week I was called to another meeting, so I asked our newest Youth Min staffers to lead the group discussion. Ali Bruce and Jake Nold did such a good job that Kim couldn’t wait to brag on them to me.

Tonight’s discussion was supposed to center around Ephesians 5-6 and Philippians. We managed to cover 4 chapters of the reading, which led to so much good discussion that we hated to stop for the night. Some of our big takeaways for the night included

  • a renewal of our effort to pray more
  • an increase in intentionality/awareness of spiritual warfare
  • a call to live as missionaries in and to our present culture

I am loving what I see in our lifegroup, and can hardly wait to see what the Lord has for us in the weeks to come!

let the good times roll

Tonight we kicked off our first installment of Club56, which is our attempt to help rising 6th graders bridge the gap between elementary school and middle school, at least as it pertains to youth group. We have 3 events planned for 5th and 6th graders over the summer. Tonight we took them bowling.

We had a few great leaders on hand to connect with the students, and the bowling was flat-out fun! We hooted and hollered every time someone got a strike or spare, and groaned with every split.

I believe that the tide is turning as far as the youth leaving the church. Oh sure, there will always be some portion of the graduating class that decides to explore other options, who want to check out of church. But for those students who are loved and encouraged, given a safe environment to ask genuine questions, taught to study the Word of God, mentored and given opportunities to lead…for those students who come to know Jesus personally, find a community to grow with, and discover their calling in life–those students are going to find a faith that lasts a lifetime.

I think we are on the path to creating a place like that for teenagers right here in Happy Valley. And I get excited when I think about the future!
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God uses people to push us

Tonight at XStream I talked about how part of God’s plan for us to grow and develop in our faith involves the people he brings into our lives. We’ve got to be open to their influence, and there are certainly some folks in everybody’s life who wouldn’t be a good influence. But if you’re paying attention and willing to be teachable, there are people around you who will shape and sharpen you, making you a better person.

I told XStream about a few of the people who have shaped my life. This list is by no means complete, but I thought I’d post a public “thank you” here.

Charlie Walker was my 7th grade English teacher. It was 1980 in Warner Robins, GA, and Charlie started the year by introducing himself: “My name is Charlie Walker, and I’m your English teacher. You might not learn a lot of English, but you will learn two things: 1) Jesus loves you, and 2) I love you.” Turns out he was right about that. Over the next few years Charlie showed me what it meant to live simply, radically, humbly, loving others more than self, and loving Jesus more than anything. He’s a large factor in why I’m a youth pastor today.

A few years later at Toccoa Falls College this kid from Nyack, NY heard my boom box blasting Petra tunes and stuck his head in my dorm-room doorway. He saw my nerf-hoop and made himself at home. Phil Human was a loud, large Yankee who liked basketball and loved Jesus. Over the next 3 years he’d become a brother to me as we shared lots of stupid, funny, serious, and spiritual moments. We talked about everything. He challenged me to grow as a man of God. I could call him right now and it would be like no time has passed in our relationship.
Us at Kings Kids Kamp Phil and Jody

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Mylin is–other than my wife–my best friend. We’ve played in the outdoors, traveled the country talking to middle school boys about sexual purity, and had countless conversations about adoption, parenting, and being a godly husband. He knows all my secrets, and I trust him with my soul.
Red Mo Andy & Janet

I am grateful for the men God has given me over the years to mentor and shape me. They have prayed for me, laughed and cried with me, modeled righteousness and grace, and challenged me to be the man God has called me to be. They inspire me to lean into God’s provision, to walk in a manner worthy of God’s call on my life.

Who has been influential in your life?

sometimes you get a little dirt on you

Every Tuesday Charlie gets to hang out with his buddy Jack. Jack comes over to the house and they do guy stuff. At this point in his life, that mostly looks like playing with trucks in the flowerbed dirt, chasing the cats around the yard, throwing sticks into the bushes, bouncing on the trampoline, and trying to figure out how to make the swings work.

I hope that things don’t really change that much for him. And yet I hope they do.

Guys–most guys, most dads I talk to–walk a more solitary road than we should. I know that’s a generalization, but it stands up. Friends are often hard to come by, and I think it stems from our level of sharing. Ladies seem to be quicker to open up, to go deeper, to share how they’re feeling. Some of us guys don’t even know how we’re feeling, even when we’re feeling what we’re feeling. It’s not easy to talk about your feelings if you don’t know what you’re feeling.

But I’m hoping we can turn that tide. God uses people to shape us, to help us grow spiritually. But that only works when we can share about how we’re doing, when we can be vulnerable and get real with others.

Guys are pretty good at hanging out to watch the game, fix the car, or grill the burgers. We have to learn how to get from casual conversation down to the stuff that matters.

That means that sometimes you’ve got to be willing to get down into the dirt of life. Good stuff grows in good soil…
Charlie dirtThis is Charlie after hanging out with Jack today. Charlie claims that Paisley (our one-eyed wonder dog) “digged up dirt and throwed it on” his face. I think it’s a good look for him. Adventure guys get dirty together.

winning the busy war

I like being busy. Check that–I like being productive, being fruitful. Too often I settle for being busy. Sometimes I wonder if I’m quietly trading one for the other. Am I fooling myself into thinking that busy will lead to productive? Or that I’ll at least convince people that I’m headed towards fruitful if I’m busy…

If I know you like I think I do (and you know I do, don’t I?), you’ve got a lot on your plate. You’re working hard for the man, running kids to ball games, rehearsals, and part-time jobs, “helping” with those 4th grade science fair projects, puttering around in yard, waiting on the repair guy, trying to get the van fixed…you’d like to take a vacation, but you’d come home tired from all the vacationing!

As summer approaches, I’m spending some time thinking through all the things I want to do, all the things I want accomplish. I’m more excited about my role at Calvary than I have ever been, and I don’t imagine the pace slowing down. I’ve also come to realize that the work is truly never going to be done until Jesus returns–literally.

Instead of bemoaning our busy-ness and comparing schedules to see who wins the “oh man, I’m busy” award, I’m proposing that we take a more proactive approach. This excerpt from Reggie McNeal’s book Practicing Greatness landed in my inbox today. It’s just what I needed to read.
Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 11.41.32 PMSo my short list involves getting out into the wilderness more, and spending more time playing in the backyard with my kids. Work and all the rest of the stuff will still be there. I only have so many days with my kids.

Who’s with me? Charlie’s a mean bocce player!
Charlie bocce

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.