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.
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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!

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.

a low-key birthday party

If you said that you had 10 people in your living room for cake and ice cream, folks would probably think you had a pretty big shindig. That’s just dessert for Team Sublett.

We’ve been planning to have a night of authentic Chinese food to celebrate Annabelle’s adoption anniversary, but we’d like to have all/most of the fam at the table. Since she was supposed to be playing basketball and staying after her game to watch the State High jv and varsity, Kim opted for one of her favorites–meatloaf and mashed taters.

We thought we’d have most of the kids around the table. Then Annabelle called to say that she got permission to come home early, and the party was in full swing. As we chowed down on some deelish loaf d’meat, we all shared something(s) that we love about Kim. No cards, no flowers, no presents…which seemed sort of like a let-down, yes. But we got a chance to say thank you to the one who holds us all together, who sets the tone and temperament of the the house, who keeps us all moving in the directions we’re supposed to go, who runs a seemingly nonstop shuttle from work to practice to rehearsal to church to friends to blah blah blahhh.

Kim and I met on her birthday in 1989. It seems kind of crazy to think of all the things that have happened in the last 25 years. Happy birthday, babe!
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5 years ago our life changed

5 years ago today we stood got the gift of a lifetime. Annabelle walked out of a waiting room and into our hearts.

The crazy thing is that on the way to the meeting our translator/guide told us to expect the worst–that Annabelle would be unhappy to go with us, that she would likely cry a good bit and want to stay in her homeland with her friends. For the first time Kim and I had to consider that Annabelle might not want to be our daughter. We prayed and walked in, hoping for the best.

You can imagine our surprise (and see it in Kim’s eyes!) when Annabelle greeted us with a smile and a kiss and a “Mommy! Daddy!”

5 years have passed so quickly. And we’re more in love with this young lady now than we were when we first met her.
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my brother-in-law, the prophet

We kicked off a series on dating tonight at XStream. Some of the students have been dating for years; some of them think, “Dating? Ew. Gross.” But it’s a topic we need to discuss. Plus it gave me a chance to tell some of my dating stories.

The series is entitled Obsessed, and we looked at how Samson jacked up his life and future (not to mention that of his nation) because he allowed his obsession with the ladies to get in the way of his calling and devotion to God.

Have you seen this?

One of my favorite parts of the Kim & Stac story is the day we met. I actually met Kim’s brother first. He rode with the fam down to GA to drop Kim off at college (Hey Toccoa Falls!). We were already playing baseball–outside–on January 20, and he tagged along for a little batting practice. He borrowed my glove and was shagging balls in left field when the family conversion van rolled up. He hollered, “Gotta go!” and tossed my glove to another guy, and I didn’t give it another thought. Months later I found out that he hopped in the van and told his parents this stunner:
“I just met the guy Kim is going to go for.”

Can you believe it?!?! I’m so glad he was right.
stac & kim birthday

stac & kim boots

stac & kim 1 year

Stac & Kim wedded bliss