We have a top-notch video department at Calvary. Greg Ford does some fabulous work, and one of his latest creations features our student ministry. Take a look, and if you love it, drop Greg a note to let him know!
I’ve been the chaplain for the State College Spikes since they moved to town in 2006. It’s been a source of great joy and entertainment over the years. We’ve seen a lot of baseball, met a lot of great guys, and made some good friends.
I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these young men. We only had 4 regular season home Sunday games, which meant we only had 4 chapels. But we made up for things by getting together often for breakfasts at the Waffle Shop.
If the statistics hold true, some of these guys will be out of baseball within the next few years. They know that. But for a good many of them, they have a faith that will outlast their baseball career. They are men of character and integrity. They play this game that we love with a burning passion, but it doesn’t define them. They find their identity in Jesus, not in the box score.
They are bringing a great big trophy back to Happy Valley, and they deserve to celebrate their accomplishment. But some of them have discovered that there is more to finishing well than the box score can report.
My positivity was tested today. We got a sunny afternoon, and the grass was in need of a trim. I like cutting the grass. Because so much of my job is difficult to measure (how do you gauge discipleship and spiritual growth?) I find that I enjoy things that give me immediate feedback and allow me to track my progress. So I find that cutting grass and even painting (rooms, not portraits) are great forms of occupational therapy for me. I know how long I’ve been working, can see how much remains to be done, and can even get a feel for how much longer I’ll have to work before I’m done.
But today didn’t turn out like I expected. I figured the mower would give me troubles. My neighbor Mike had to help me get it running last week. He thinks I need a new battery. But I thought I might be able to use that battery charger and sneak one last mow out of that battery. So while I let the battery get a little extra juice I thought I’d run the string trimmer around the edges of the house and yard.
The little engine that couldn’t wouldn’t cooperate. It would cough and start, but any time I gave it any gas the engine would sputter and die. 0 for 1 in the engine department. So I turned my attention to the riding mower.
I went back and forth between the 2 non-compliant yard machines for about an hour. I tugged and pulled and cajoled and coaxed and prayed and finally walked away positive.
Positively mad. Positive that I need a class in small engine maintenance. Positive that I wanted to throw a string trimmer at a riding mower today.
I did make the most of it, however. Isaac and I headed to the backyard to play a little catch in the afternoon sun.
Positivity. I have it. I don’t know if it’s always been present. If so, it lay dormant for a good portion of my adult life.
But listening to some folks dripping with negativity today, I realized that I am generally a positive person. I wanted to counter every negative thing spoken. I had to restrain myself from challenging every down-in-the-mouth comment.
When my outlook on life is positive, most days are pretty good. Today was a good day.
There was a time in my life when I would have said that Kim was an optimist, and I was a realist. That was my snarky way of being pessimistic. But God did a work of transformation in my heart, and now I’m a full-blown optimist.
Bring on the rainbows and unicorns.
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!
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.
(photos courtesy of Kevin Sliman)
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.
We’ve been meeting at Harvest Fields all summer for XStream (Calvary’s youth group.) We meet behind the Barn, beside the pond. There’s a fire pit, and we hang around there most nights until well-past dark. And almost every week there are folks who take a swim in one of the ponds out there.
But this week–our last at the Barn, btw–2 students wanted to declare their faith in Jesus Christ, to tell their friends and families that they’ve made a decision to follow Christ, to give their lives to him, to ask him to forgive their sins and give them new life. Tonight we used that little outdoor amphitheater to baptize Isaac (my son!) and Melissa. The act of immersing them in water represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s our faith in Christ that gives us new life, and our baptism is a public declaration of our faith and hope in Christ, our love for him.
As their youth pastor, I celebrate young men and women who want to live for Jesus, who have reached a point in their faith where they want to declare that publicly. As his dad, I am so proud of Isaac and his decision to follow Jesus that I could just about burst!
I believe that God is doing great things in our community, and that this could be a breakthrough year for Kingdom life in Happy Valley.
Something wonderful happened for us about this time of night 3 years ago. Charlie came into the world just after 11pm, a squirming, squealing little red man. And Team Sublett has been blessed beyond belief through him.
We honestly thought we were done with babies. 2 adoptions of older kids had gone really well, and we hadn’t changed a diaper in our house for years! Then Charlie’s birthmom entered the picture, asking if we’d consider adopting him. I thought we’d be more likely to bring her into the family, help her figure out how to get on her feet and raise the little boy. But she didn’t want to parent, and thought we’d be a good family for her child.
We prayed about it, talked it over with the fam, and jumped into the mix. And I couldn’t imagine what our life would look like without him.
He’s been a gift to us, especially to Annabelle, Josie, and Isaac. Most of the children they knew growing up in China were in an orphanage, abandoned by parents who couldn’t keep them. They didn’t understand what it was like to want a child, to bring a baby into the family. We wondered if they would bond with the new addition. In no time at all he’d won them over. In fact, I began to wonder if the boy would ever learn to crawl; he never touched the ground because everyone wanted to hold him!
Saturdays have been set aside for Team Sublett family adventures lately. We’ve hiked a couple of nice little hikes, and everyone has had fun. But I gave the fam the day off this past Saturday. I spent a day with some of the up and coming leaders in our life, and I really worked them hard. There was lots of grunting, a good bit of bruising and scaping, and I’m fairly certain there was some gnashing of teeth.
I took 7 hearty young adventurers caving in one of the caves I know best–Bear Cave, near Derry, PA. I’ve spent countless hours exploring and delving deep. It’s the 6th longest cave in PA, and we covered most of it in our 3+ hour underground journey.
We crawled all the crawls we could find, sometimes inching our way on our bellies, our shoulders touching the walls on both sides, arms stretched out ahead of us so they wouldn’t wedge us in. We climbed up Suicide Pass and wiggled our way through Backbreaker Pass. We slid through the Worm Hole and over Coffin Rock. We eventually made our way back through the Keyhole, dropping down to the water that runs through the cave, slipping back to the Calcite waterfall and the effective end of the cave.
There were 5 young men, 2 young ladies, and one me. They’re all leaders or former students in our youth ministry. It was refreshing and challenging to get back underground. I got to put my cave memory to the test (I passed) and exercise some long-unused caving muscles. We chased lots of fears and phobias along the way–fear of the dark, or close spaces, of spiders and mud and getting lost…
Do you know what I liked most? Simple: seeing young men and women who are passionate about their relationship with Jesus growing in leadership. I loved the fact that I got to spend 9 hours of intense time with these folks, seeing how they react under pressure, watching them encourage and cheer each other on, listening to their stories, laughing at their jokes, observing how they truly live.
Kim and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary Monday. The kids stayed home and took care of Charlie while we went out to dinner at our favorite place, The Tavern. We enjoyed a delicious meal, uninterrupted adult conversation, and the luxury of lingering over a cup of coffee after dinner.
24 years ago we were so excited about starting our new life together. I had just graduated from Toccoa Falls College with a degree in youth ministry. I’d been hired to be the youth pastor at Greensburg Alliance Church, in a town a few miles down the road from Kim’s family. I don’t think we were scared about being newlyweds, starting a new job, or stepping out on our own. Maybe we were just so in love–or so naive–that we didn’t know any different!
I must have been a little nervous, though, on our wedding day. The day progressed smoothly without any major hiccups. But there must have been something going on in my head or heart. When I took my bowtie off at the end of the day I spotted something unusual. Around my neck, where the bowtie had rested for hours, was a little ring of blisters! Yep, I’d worn my tie so tight that it gave me blisters, and I never felt a thing!
24 years…what an incredible journey. God has blessed us tremendously. I am married to my best friend, my partner in life and ministry. It sounds cliche, but it’s absolutely true: I love her more today than I did 24 years ago. But that hair was something special, right?
Our church wrapped up our yearly sports camp Thursday evening, and I got to invite the 5th graders to join me and the other youth leaders for a few events this summer designed just for them. The parents of all the children were gathered all around the watched the various teams step to the front to show some of the songs they had learned. They were wildly enthusiastic and loved sharing with the parents, but something else caught my eye.
As our youth pastor, I am all too familiar with the fact that 60-70% of high school grads will walk away from church and faith. That fact is driving me to re-examine a lot of our practices in our church, and in my family. I want to know what we can do to help students develop a faith that lasts a lifetime.
As I watched the coaches (volunteers who led the sports camp) gather for their final huddle, I realized that almost half of the leaders were either students from our youth ministry or former students who are now in college. A huge wave of emotion rolled over me as I began to think about the links in the chain of influence. The leaders in our student ministry have shaped the lives of the young men and women who were now leading this sports camp. And they, in turn, are speaking into the lives of the next generation of boys and girls, modeling what it means to live for Jesus.
I hugged and high-fived as many of those leaders as I could tonight as they exited the building. I don’t know if they see what they’re doing, if they sense the importance and feel the weight of their influence. It’s likely that most of them think they were simply volunteering for a fun sports camp. But the truth is that they were cementing their own faith, and leaving a legacy for those elementary kids to follow.
I don’t know if there are guaranteed ways to help students stay connected to Jesus and the Church as they graduate. But I do know that finding ways for them to share in the story, to be part of the life of the Church, to speak into the life of those following behind them is about as good as it gets.