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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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!

a little night-walking

Ponder the path of your feet;
    then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
    turn your foot away from evil.

Those were the helpful words that I heard as I listened to some Scripture tonight on my walk home from XStream. We dropped the truck off at the garage last night, so Kim and I had one vehicle for the day. She expected me to get a ride home from church with someone. I forgot that I didn’t have my truck until after everyone was gone for the night.

So I walked. And it was actually kind of fun. Over the 2 miles home I got to listen to Psalms 4-6 and Romans 8, and the night was just about perfect for praying as I walked.

I don’t know if I’d want to walk everywhere, but it definitely wasn’t a wasted night!

One another note, Ali Bruce shared the talk tonight at XStream. She talked about how God can use our acts of service to help us grow spiritually. I didn’t get to hear her speak, but I got lots of good feedback from folks who did. Ali is one of our key leaders, and is part of our youth ministry staff. She is the real deal, loves Jesus and teenagers, and I couldn’t be happier to have her with us.

Ali & Josie Ali, Josie, Annabelle

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?

somewhere in China, 18 years ago

our sweet little Zhou Ming Ping was born. It took an act of God–several times over–for us to be able to call her Josie Sublett. But man, was it ever worth the wait!

I got to travel with the State High Girls Rugby team out to Pittsburgh over the weekend for their national tournament. It was wonderful to get to spend time with those girls and their parents. We had a good bit of time to hang out together, and their coach (Bernie Cantorna) does a fabulous job of getting people talking about the things that really matter. One of the unexpected blessings was hearing how much some of the other parents and rugby girls love our Josie. They see a side of her that we don’t always get to see, and it was encouraging to hear.

The Josie we see with regularity is loyal, mostly quiet, hard working, responsible, and faithful. She’s great with the little kids, happy to be part of a big family, always willing to pitch in, whether we’re cleaning the table, working in the flower beds, or playing a game. She doesn’t really like school but she is diligent with her homework. She doesn’t like to sing, but she loves music.

As we sat around the table tonight (Kim’s parents stopped in unexpectedly to help us celebrate!) we all got to share a fantabulous Josie memory. Each one of us shared something that could’ve simultaneously produced peals of laughter or a torrent of tears. Of all the things I find most notable, Josie is learning how to love, and how to express that love.

You are a wonder, daughter of mine. You weren’t born into our family, but you were certainly born for our family. You have shaped us, blessed us, and taught us. We are better because you are with us.

Happy birthday, Josie. I love you.

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This was their first game. Josie wears #7. As you can see, her opponent is about twice her size!

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We got to go to church Saturday night in Pittsburgh. Rugby girls love Jesus–who knew?

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My girl looks fierce.

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Final team shot of the year. 5th place at nationals is no small accomplishment!

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Charlie was excited to make you brownies!

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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.

hello blog, i’ve missed you

It’s been a few silent months around the old blogosphere while we got things sorted out with Baby Jase. As of today, he’s officially the newest member of Team Sublett!

We weren’t sure how things were going to work out. We actually headed to the courthouse today expecting a hearing about the birth-father’s paternal rights. At some point in the morning things went in a different direction. We scrambled to get all of our young’ns to the courthouse and finalized the whole shebang this morning around 11.

We are incredibly grateful for all of the prayers and support over the past few months. Team Sublett continues to ride this crazy/wild/wonderful wave that the good Lord has seen fit to set before us. We’re thankful to have friends who have shared the journey with us, lending support and encouragement along the way.

A few months ago we believe that the Lord gave us a verse for Jase. It comes from Isaiah 27:6

In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.

We’re believing that God has a plan for this boy, and that he’s chosen us to play a significant role in his development. And we couldn’t be happier!

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100 years of married life

Both my parents and Kim’s parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries this year. My parents hit the mark back in July (we’ll celebrate at Thanksgiving) while Kim’s folks reach the milestone tomorrow. Kim’s parents’ friends threw them a big shindig down in Florida this past spring, but since most of the family couldn’t get down to the Sunshine State, we’re having a family party in Beautiful Bedford tomorrow night.

We have learned so many good things from our parents. They’ve modeled what it means to pursue Jesus as a family, radical generosity, perseverance in the face of adversity, a solid work ethic, parenting with grace, the “blessed to be a blessing” concept, and how to live a life built on the foundation of prayer. We’ve absolutely been blessed to have these four as our parental units.

If you see Rusty and Judy or Ken and Darla, give ’em a big hug, and tell ’em that their kids are grateful.
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off to a good start

Last weekend Kim and I took most of our adult volunteers away for a weekend to pray and plan, to train and build relationships. We believe that the heart of every good ministry is a great team, and we’ve got the makings of a great team working with us! Krislund was a great retreat venue. We got to play/think/strategize/teamify on their Initiatives course, experience some of the vertical adventures of their high ropes course, and spend a solid weekend with some high-capacity leaders. We prayed a lot, talked about ministry priorities and strategies, and enjoyed worshiping together. A fire pit gave us a great setting for some late-night chats, and some real bonding happened!
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We kicked off the new XStream year tonight, moving back to Calvary’s building. Some of our friends from 242 (Grace Prep/Stepping Stones/Centre Church) joined us for worship and prayer. Tonight was GOOD! I saw lots of new faces and some folks who were away for most of the summer, as well as most of the peeps who hung out with us at the Barn all summer long. After a good time of worship, I led students through a prayer exercise–ask them about it! I called it the Five Fingers of Prayer.
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We’ve got a great year of ministry ahead of us, and we seem to be building momentum. From a dynamite team to some enthusiasm among students to building relationships and rapport with parents…I believe that God wants to do something special in Happy Valley this year, and that it’s got something to do with teenagers. I can hardly wait to see what develops.

one of the hardest things ever

I made the trek to Danville today to be with some friends who are spending a couple of days in the hospital there. A few months ago they got the news that the baby they were expecting wasn’t going to live. He hung on all the way through birth, passing away in his parents’ arms about 95 minutes after his arrival. Mark got to tell Josiah that he loved him, that he was proud of him, and that he did a great job of fighting to spend a precious few moments with mom and dad.
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Lots of family and friends have been praying and loving this couple, and they are so strong, trusting that the Lord is going to heal and restore and help them get through this.

But this is just plain hard. Awful. Terrible. Unfathomable. Unthinkable.

We would love for you to join us as we pray for Mark and Hannah and their family. They’re doing well, but the waves of emotions will continue to roll for who knows how long, and they will need the love and support of family and friends in the days to come. The death of a child is one of the most difficult things I can imagine.