Thursday, August 16, 2007

Green Lake Trip

At the end of July, I went on my summer trip with the teenagers in our church again. We went to Green Lake, WI via Minneapolis for the Quest Leadership Program, and we had a lot of fun. The kids were really easy to work with this year, which was really nice considering everything else that has happened at First Baptist. Here we are as we arrived at the Green Lake Camp and Conference Center in Green Lake, WI.

The program had us in small groups in the morning after worship. The kids had workshops in the afternoon, and then everyone had free time for about 2-3 hours in the afternoon. Here are a few of the kids swimming:

Here is a morning worship service after our prarie prayer walk:

Each evening we would have a worship time as well. The last evening we had worship around a campfire, as is traditional for church camps. Here I am with the girls that were on the trip:

In the coming days I will be adding some journal entries that I wrote during the week.

Obedience and Worship

I have been reading about worship and celebration in the classic book about Spiritual Disciplines called "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster.

As I was reading I ran into this quote, "Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience it has not been worship. Holy Obedience saves worship from becoming an opiate, an escape from the pressing needs of the modern life. Worship enables us to hear the call to service clearly so that we respond." (173).

One of my frustrations with being a leader and a teacher in churches is I feel the constant demand from people to give them the "easy button" to a closer relationship with God. People want five purposes that are easy to apply and utterly change their life. They want one structural change to our churches programs that will make the "big difference", and will change everything. Furthermore, they don't want that easy thing to cost them very much.

Nowhere is this attitude more pervasive than in worship. Maybe if there was better music people say, than more people would walk through the door. Perhaps if there was a more dynamic sermon, than our faith journeys would be a little easier. In other words, if I had my way in this, that, or the other, than my life would be easier.

The truth is though, many of treat worship like the "opiate" or drug described in the quote. It is something to make me happy. To make me feel good. To make life a little easier. So we come to worship saying we want to hear God, but when we say we want to hear God what we mean is that we want God to whisper daily affirmations in our ear. We don't want to obey. We don't want to follow. That might mean we have to deal with our drinking problem, our greed, our anger, and do the hard work of choosing God over our destructive habits.

That is not an easy word to hear.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Journal Entry for July 29, 2007

I wonder a lot about the importance or lack of importance of adding value, and of being of value. Actually, if I am honest, this is an inner struggle I wrestle with quite often. I have a deep desire to add value to the organizations I am with, and the missions I am a part of. Yet, there is a deep sense in which I should avoid this "need to be needed".

I have been pondering this a lot on this trip in particular. I think this tension between wanting to add value, and at the same time wanting to avoid the need to be needed makes me hard to read at times. I want to step up, be a leader, and take charge when needed. Yet, I do not want to be one of those people who has a need for power.

When I think about my next step in my calling to ministry, there is a strong desire on my heart to be a senior/solo pastor. As I think about this, I wonder if part of this stems from a need to be valued. Valued for my contributions. Valued for my leadership. Valued as a human being. Then I wonderif a desire to be valued and to add value is a selfish thing or a healthy thing? Is it something I should be comfortable with or shy away from? Is God speaking to me through these thoughts and feelings about changing my situation or myself?

Should I consider a solo pastorate that pays even less?

Should I look at an associate pastor position and risk going through what I have went through in Colorado all over again?

At First Baptist, is my concern more that I am not adding value, or that I am not being valued, especially by those in leadership? I think my greatest fear is that at some point it may become both.

Should I pursue something new and different?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Reverend Green Thumb

A couple months ago, I considered whether having plants was too big a commitment for me. With as little time as I have, I wondered if I could really invest a lot of time in caring for some houseplants.

After careful consideration, I made the plunge into being a plant owner. I have found that I enjoy them more than I thought I might have at first. They make my apartment feel more like a home, and maintaining and caring for the plants is great for stress relief. I can just focus on the little things I need to do in caring for the plants, and forget about the stuff that is happening at work.

Here are a few of the plants

This first plant is my mother's choice from her visit this summer. She kept saying she wished she had a bigger pot to plant them in. I have a bigger pot now, but I prefer to save those for my plants instead of my annual flowers.

The second picture is a very poor image of something similar to a rubber plant. Will be great inside during the winter this year!

The third picture is not an aloe vera, but it is something in the same family. It is a little darker green, and seems to be a popular plant this year.

One of the tricks I have learned with houseplants is that if you want something generic, you can pic that up at Lowe's or Walmart. But, if you are looking for a plant that is a little bit more special, you are better off going to a nursery. I got this lupine at the nursery. I had to prune it back to only two shoots, but now look at it! It even has a flower that is starting to emerge.

I wanted a flower box or two for my small patio. Mom went shopping with me when I was here. I picked about 3/4 of the flowers, and then mom started taking over the whole project. Our combinded tastes went pretty well together, although I think she would have wanted a lot more fragrant plants. She did the arranging with the flower boxes. Looks good doesn't it. Both my mother and father have a good eye for such things.

This is another unique plant. It is some variation on the pink quill section of the bromilead family, although the quill looks more red and yellow than pink. This is one of the few versions of this type of plant that are potted. Many others of them don't have roots, and get their moisture from the air to grow and survive.

This plant is my sucess story. I got it with maybe four leaves on it from Walmart, but look at it now. It just keeps growing and growing.

More pictures later....

Journal for July 30, 2007

I chose to build off of my question from yesterday. With the kids, I asked them to carry one question with them through the week, and offer it as a question they could seek the answer for during their week at this conference.

My question is: Am I adding value in ministry to you, Lord? Do I really matter in your church's ministry, or are you finished with me there?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Beauty of Adolescence--Journal July 31, 2007

I have been thinking a lot today about the beauty of adolescence and adolescent people as a group. Over and over again I am in awe of you, Lord, but none more than when I think of my kids that you have put into my care and smile. I love watching them grow. I love watching them bumble and tumble into adulthood.

I was watching James today, and I had to laugh. There he was digging around and diving underwater, picking up rocks in the swimming area, and moving them. He is some ways is like a little boy. But then there are times when I sit around and talk to him and I am in awe of the man he has become in the last four years. Thank you Lord for letting me have a small part in his life, and a small role in pointing him toward you.

There is so much I lose patience with in youth ministry. I get tired of all the goofy games. I get tired of challenging kids to care, and feeling like they never do. But I love loving teens with the love of God. I love sharing my life with them. I love sharing my faith with them. I love sitting and talking with Emily her relationships with boys in the coffee shop, and struggling with Brad through all his heartaches and frustrations.

All in all, Lord, I love them because you love them. And this stage of growth that so many fear and despise in our churches and our culture I think is more beautiful and powerful than I ever could imagine.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sitting in My Angry Chair--August 1, 2007 Journal

I went on the prarie walk at camp today. Robin found it deeply moving. I found it heartwrenching, but in an informative way.

The thing I noticed, and have noticed whenever I have tried to practice the disciplines of silence and solitude, is that anger is never far from me.

As we were challenged to set everything aside as we went on our walk, there were lots of things I could set aside. As much as I tried to sweep anger away, it seemed that anger continued to want to be my companion. It was like I could hear anger breathing heavy behind me, and crouching over my shoulder whenever I tried to do anything on that walk. Anger may not even be the best word. It might be better to say that rage was my companion.

I am angry because in many ways it feels like I have been drawn into a beautiful wooded area on a camping trip, and in the middle of the night everyone decided to pick up camp and leave without me. And here I am in my personal life, on my journey of faith, and in my ministerial journey, left alone and abandoned in a vast wilderness I cannot find my way out of.

I am angry at my family (though not everyone), and some of the things that have happened recently. I am frustrated with parents of teenagers at the church (though not all of them), especially after my talk with one of the kids last night. I am frustrated with constantly being discounted and devalued by leadership at my church. And I am frustrated I did not write this down immediately after the prarie walk, so I could have written it better.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Affirmed--August 2, 2007

Tuesday night was a real blessing to me. After flopping on Monday night, I felt like YOU were leading me to trust my own leadership instincts and abandon our worksheet they had given us to facilitate our discussion with one another.

One of the things I felt led to do, in part because I wanted to cement the bond that our group seemed to be forming through this trip, is to have a time for affirmations. Each person went around the circle and shared something they appreciated about other people in the group. It was great. I thought we could do this for our volunteer and the kids, and avoid having to sit in the affirmation chair. I was wrong. The kids insisted I take my turn.

I expected to hear them say appreciative words about my hard work in organizing the trip, and in some skills I have that they appreciate. I expected them to struggle for words in what to say to me, and for it to be forced and awkward. As a matter of fact, the opposite happened.

I was frankly taken off guard by the group's level of emotion and depth of thought in what they chose to affirm in me. More than one kid cried as they shared what our relationship with one another meant to them. They mentioned my kindness, and my willingness to accept them without judgement or compromise of my values at the same time. They mentioned that they even appreciated when I had the courage to offer them accountability and discipline.

The whole thing was very special. Among adults, I seem to get a majority of my affirmation related to my intellect, and my ability to use that intelligence in teaching, or in offering analysis or support. This time with the kids was different. It was, and this should not surprise me, all about my relationship with them. I guess what surprised me with the situation is that they truly noticed things I thought they would take for granted, including many things I had forgotten myself.

They did not remember what I taught them, and later even asked why they were not getting stuff in youth group that had been taught on multiple occasions. What did they remember? They remembered the relationship. They remembered the faithfulness of my love for them. They remembered the love.

Maybe the Bible is true when it says, "Love covers a multitude of sins".


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