Tuesday, December 30, 2003


Recently I got to speak on this topic (from John 10:10b) first to our student ministry and then to our entire church. One of the things that I did in preparation for that message was send out an email to several different people, some Christian some not. Some older some not. The email asked the people How they would define A Life Well Lived. I found these very interesting and shared some in my message. I thought I would post some of the responses here. I have kept them anonymous execept to tell you a gender and age. So here goes:

"I would define a life well lived as a life that has been pleasing to God. A life where you have done the best you could considering your circumstances and when people remember you, they smile and miss you.
Female approximately 55 - Christian

"A life well lived is a life with few regrets concerning your walk with God, with family, friends, and neighbors. Songs like Cat's in the Cradle by Cat Stevens; Hurt by Johnny Cash, The Way of Wisdom by Michael Card capture what I mean."
Female approximately 50 - Christian

"A life well lived is to have a job you enjoy and to be happily married
to your one true love. These are the things that come to my mind at this
time in my life."

Male 15 - Christian

"To me, a life well lived is a life with many friends, who not only are in to the things you like to do, but also believe in the same things you do. I think a life lived for God is definitly key, spending time in the word, worshiping at church, and to others. Having a great family who has the same belief and support system that the person has. I think those are the key things to a life well lived. Oh, they have to be big Red Sox fans, too (hee, Hee.) "
Male 18 - Christian

"The right answer is a life dedicated to serving God and his will from a
Christian stand point."

Male 17 - Christian

"A life well lived to me would be one of triumphs and tragedy. One where you have had the experience of knowing God in many ways and experiencing His love in many ways.A life of knowing how to trust God in all things even if you don't understand. A Christ-centered life full of memories of how Christ made a difference in even the everyday situation. A life that when you leave this life, people remember how much you loved Christ. "
Female 39 - Christian

"I would define a life well lived as one that mimics the life of Christ.
So that no matter what God has called you to do, from mission work to
shelf stocking in a store, it is done to God's glory, to the best of
yourability, with an attitude of doing it as unto the Lord. If this is the
overall attitude of your life I would consider it a life well lived."

Female 29 - Christian

Male - Approximately 65 - Retired Christian Pastor

"I think a life well-lived has a lot to do with how you affect other
people. When your life is over, how many people will be able to say
that you had a positive affect on their lives? I think we are put on this
earth not only to glorify God, but also to minister to each other.
Living a good life revolves around living a Godly life, which naturally
leads to serving others. A life well-lived would be one that included
being a positive witness to unbelievers, nurturing other believers,
being nurtured by other believers, and trying to help meet the needs of
the people around you."

Female 31 - Christian

-to have worshiped God often and sincerely
-to have a friendship that has stood the test of time and adversity
-to have laughed often and much
-to have marveled in the beauty of the "ordinary" things in our world
-to have felt the unconditional love of a child
-to have known the tender and heated embrace of a lover
-to have earned the appreciation of trustworthy and honest critics
-to have helped someone by something you've said, taught, given or prayed
-to have known a moment of hapiness that words can't truly express
-to have turned a closed door into an open window
-to have cried, sighed, grieved or longed and found comfort
-to have been used as a tool for a small or big work in God's service
-to have moved beyond defining MY life and how well it has been lived to helping someone else live theirs and live it well.

Material things like houses, cars, great jobs, big tvs, etc... are cool, but with or without them it is RELATIONSHIPS that define a well lived life. A relationship with Jesus, with a parent, a friend, an offspring, a spouse. Big TVs will break, houses will fall down, jobs will end. Your effect on someone else's life will not only effect them, but people that they know and the people that they know and so on. Your relationships tell WHO you were and WHAT you stood for for generations. Your relationships define not only your life on earth, but in heaven as well. Know God? No God?"

Female 30 - Christian

"A life well lived is one that is committed to God in ALL that I do."
Male 34 - Christian

"A life well lived can be defined many ways based on people's
perspectives (mainly the reason why you are asking a number of
different people!). Some put all of their store in material goods,
but we know that this is not fullfilling or God's definition of a
life well lived (Matt 6:20).
Other folks see that living life with a positive outlook and doing
good deeds to their fellow man is fullfilling. It makes them all
warm and fuzzy inside and someone else benefits. What could be
wrong? However, there is still an element of selfishness here,
although somewhat buried. Folks are doing this for the purpose of
fullfilling themselves. Their motive is really all about them
feeling good. Does the end justify the means?
Which brings me to my point. In order to honestly and trully live a
fullfilled and worthfull life, we must get rid of this selfish
behavior. The only way to do that is through admitting that we are
nothing in the presence of God. He is the only thing that matters.
When there is less of us, there is more of Him. It is when we become
humble, meek and holy as a result of his action in our lives that we
are fulfilled. (Mark 8:35)
Of course, this may mean that you aren't serving other people all the
time in what they consider good ways (as mentioned in the second
paragraph). But as long as we are constantly striving for that holy
presence of God, all things will work together for good (Romans
8:28). It's really not about us, it's about HIM.
I want to note that I didn't merely write this because it could be
the expected answer to give to a youth pastor, but that I would
actually give this answer to anyone, Christian or non."

Female 23 - Christian

"I would feel that I had a life well lived if I was able to have a
positive effect on people. That when they looked at me - whether in word or
action - they saw Jesus Christ in me. I want to be able to love other people in
the same way that Christ loves me. That is what makes me happy and content
with my life."

Female approximately 45 - Christian

"A life that pleased God. i dunno other than that."
Male 15 - Christian

"A life well lived is one that you can look back on and
realize that you have done what God has called you to do."

Female approximately 40 - Christian

"My Idea of a Life well lived is:
A life lived for the Glory of God. life fully devoted to the work of our Lord.
When Im gone from this world I dont want people to look back and think
wow he had alot of Money and all these fancy things.
I just want to be known as someone who Loved his friends,his family,His God and His country. All of the other things in life are just that "things".
None of that matters in the sceme of things. A life well lived to me would beto find an amazing wife have some children raise them in a Godly manner, send them off into the world with a strong christian faith and live the rest of my life with my wife serving God. I know that to alot of people that seems boring and pointless but to me it's my idea of a perfect life. Thats my perspective.hope it makes sense
Male 15 - Christian

"A life well-lived constantly puts others first for the sole reason of
gratitude for Christ's death on the cross for our salvation. This is
the only source of true happiness and holiness."
Male 33 - Christian

"A life well lived is one in which a person looks to God for their daily
inspiration to try and do something worthwhile in this society that
mandates us to be politically correct whether that means actually giving that
person what they need physically, mentally,or spiritually. It is our
responsibility to get past the nonsense and get to the heart of what
people need."

Female 35 - Christian

"How would I define a life well lived...that's a tough one. :) Hmmm. I
don't really want to dig deep into the question and come out with an answer
for you that really has nothing to do with the question at all(I tend to do
that with some things that I write). So here it goes, and I'll try to keep
it short and sweet! A life well lived to me would be a life in which I
stayed true to myself. "To thine own self be true" -William Shakespeare.
Staying true to oneself is different for everyone becuase everyone has
different values and things that are important to them individually. But it is
important to do so because I dont think very many people would want to
look back on their life when they are 90 years old and realize that their
whole life was lived by a friend's idea of how it should be lived. Also, it
is important to keep God in your life. I know that it is difficult at
times, there are times where i really struggle to stay in touch with Him, but
we all need to. Jesus loves us no matter what, all the time, day and
night. Why shouldn't we love HIM back no matter what, all the time, day and
night? This goes back to staying true to yourself. There are plenty of times
that you will be questioned of your faith. There are many times you will be
questioned about all kinds of different things that you choose to do or
not to do. However, you must "Stand up for what you believe is right, even
if you are standing alone." (Yet another quote, but i don't know who that
one is by...oops!!) If you just stand up for all the things in your life
that you believe in and all your values and things that are important to
you, then you will live a life that is only yours. You will live the life that you want for yourself and you will have had a life well lived."

Female 18 - New Christian

"So, as I think about this, I keep looking over to a copy of the poem
"Anyway" that hangs by my desk. I guess that's my answer..."

People are often unreasonable, illogical,
and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, People may accuse you
of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some
false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone
could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;

Female 35 - Not a Christian

"A life well lived has more to do with the process than it does with the
visible results. To me, a life well lived is a matter of being faithful. It means being
faithful to do all in your power to complete your mission. Of course,
one has to figure out what that is early on. I think Ecclesiastes 12:13
sums it up about as well as one Bible verse can. It says: "Now all has been
heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his
commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

Male 56 - Christian

"A life lived to the glory of God. "
Female 20 - Christian

"A life well liveed is a life which loved and was loved in return. Gave all they had for the lord for in him all things come together and are complete."
Female 15 - Christian

"Having fun."
Male - 20 - Christian

"Good question. I think that it is perhaps most
important to understand what is NOT a life well-lived.
1) It's not who dies with the most toys.
2) It is not about being happy.
3) It is not about who has the biggest bank account.

My grandmother lived her life well. She was not
perfect but was deeply grounded in her faith. She
read her Bible daily but kept it private (an
interesting source of pain for my semi-agnostic
grandfather after she died). She had an 8th grade
education but infinite wisdom. She kept herself
apprised of current events and thought about how they
affected her and how she affected them. She always
thought of others and made countless meals and hosted
friends and relatives at her table. She was a humble
woman and never spoke badly about anyone, not even
Suddam Hussein during the first Gulf War. She owned
no computer and yet could clearly organize and recall
each person's likes and dislikes and make sure that
she served their favorite foods.

Will she be remembered? Only by those whom she loved
and who loved her. Did she leave a financial legacy
behind. Less than $40,000 but an amazing amount for a
woman who never worked outside the home. She
understood economy and environmental issues. She used
things until they wore out and found uses for things
others discarded. She quietly lived out her faith.
She bore many sorrows and shared many others. I only
wish that when I die, I have had a life so well-lived."

Female 38- Christian

"How would i define a well lived life? The answer to that is quite simple and short. A well lived life is doing whatever God has called you to do and doing it with your best ability. The world's definition would probably be more like, having a family, a good job, and a nice home. That stuff is all good, but only if that is how God wants your life to be. If you do what He wants you to do and do it with all you've got, then when you get to heaven God will say, "Well done my child." That is my definition of a well lived life, and is exactly what i want God to tell me when I get to heaven."
Female 13 - Christian

"A life that when someone talks at your funeral, all they can talk about is your love and service to God! Their values passed down to other people they know
like their children."

Female 26 - Christian

"I would define a life well lived as one that is lived first of all for
the Lord. Secondly, a life that is loving and giving toward others. Over
the course of eternity it will not matter how many miles we have traveled
or whether we have managed to attain great riches here on this earth. The
things that will really matter are those things we have done for others
and the love and consideration we have shown for others. To love deeply
and give generously of time and talents are the true marks of a life well
lived! Real JOY is to put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last!"

Female Approximately 55 - Christian

"I think a life well lived is when someone lives there life for God in the fullest and to His glory!"
Female 15 - Christian

"A life where you have given back to the world around you, having helped peole through difficult cirsumsatnces or encouraged a friend during a hard time or taken the time to listen to ones heartaches or grief..and above all to have lived a life as honoring to the Lord."
Female approximately 55 - Christian

"That as a vessel of God, I would be completely emptied out and there
wouldn't be a drop of what He wanted to pour out through me that was

Male 42 - Christian

"A life is well lived when you or people around you can look at the things you've done and the things you stood for and say "now that was someone who really loved God...becuase of their faith they have been a great example to others" Thats what i think it means."
Female 17 - Christian

"Putting others above yourself."
Female 36 - Not a Christian

What do you think? Email me and let me know!
I admit I saw a few minutes of this interview waiting on a friend to arrive to watch a movie at my friend Steve's house Sunday night. What is our obsession? The man has some serious issues and we still give him our time. It is pretty sad what we will watch.

Jackson Interview on CBS Tops Ratings

By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

NEW YORK - With Ed Bradley's Michael Jackson (news) interview on Sunday, "60 Minutes" returned to a place it once found familiar — first place in the TV ratings.

Some 18.8 million people watched Jackson defend himself against molestation charges, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That wasn't a blockbuster; Jackson's interview with British journalist Martin Bashir drew 27 million on ABC last February. TV viewership overall was down during a holiday week and viewers may be suffering from Jackson fatigue.

But it was enough to make it the most-watched show of the week. Only Brett Favre's TD-throwing spree against the Oakland Raiders on "Monday Night Football" was close.

The venerable newsmagazine has spent whole seasons as TV's most popular show. But it hadn't been TV's most-watched show during any week of the TV season since November 1998.

"60 Minutes" generally has one of the oldest audiences on television, and the Jackson interview drew the newsmagazine's best ratings among viewers aged 18-to-49 in nearly four years.

The show has been undergoing a renaissance in founding executive producer Don Hewitt's final year at the helm. Its viewership is up 14 percent over last year and the show has spent five of the past six weeks in Nielsen's top 10.

It enabled CBS to continue its dominance of the TV season, averaging 9.7 million viewers (6.2 rating, 11 share). Helped by football and its "Dreamkeeper" miniseries, ABC finished second with 8.1 million viewers (5.1, 9) and won for the first time this season among the 18-to-49 demographic that advertisers love.

NBC averaged 7.3 million viewers (4.7, 9), Fox had 6 million (3.7, 7), the WB 2.7 million (1.8, 3), UPN 2.6 million (1,0, 3) and Pax TV 930,000 (0.6, 1).

A ratings point represents 1,084,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 108.4 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

Okay so you know I have not just been like checked out of the world. My home computer went down just before we left for Missouri in November. It is sad how dependent I have gotten on having a good working computer in my living room. We have one that we can use for email purposes but it is my landlord's old one and it has a pop-up virus where like 30 pop-ups come up in like 5 minutes. I is crazy. So I haven't had much of an opportunity to just think about stuff lately in this format. I have been pretty busy at work and this is the first chance I have even had to get a little downtime to write.

I had to preach in "big church" on Sunday. I think it went pretty well. I spoke on "A Life Well Lived". The responses I got were very psoitive. I always feel a little inazdequate when preaching to adults. Not that I don't think Teens deserve the same qualitya nd preperation but they just accept you so much more at face value. In my congregation here in particular there are peopel who pretty much analyze and over analyze what you say so much that it takes some joy out of the message. That didn't seem to happen with this message. It really seemed to speak to people's hearts so I am glad.

We don't always have plans for holidays and actually a part of the difficulty of living here is that we feel so alone at those times. This year however we have had four different invites for New Year's Eve. WOW! Last year we had NONE! It was pretty depressing. So this year we plan on party hopping some. It should be fun. I think God is being good to us. He knows we really desire this contact with others and so he is opening this door for that. He is so good!

Well I will continue to ramble soon! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

The Friday Five
Found these questions on LJ Brown's site.
He got them at The Friday Five Site. I liked them so I decided to stray from G-man's this week and answer these instead.

1. Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays?
I HATE SNOW!!!!! Cold isn't such a bad thing other than I have a cold right now and the cold weather just seems to irritate it. I HATE snow. I used to love it but then i moved to the STINKIN' Northeast and in MAINE it snows ALL THE FRICKIN' TIME. I HATE it. (Yes, I do have some strong opinions about this issue).

2. What is your ideal holiday celebration? How, where, with whom would you celebrate to make things perfect?
Perfect. Hmmm ... that is hard. Most certainly it would be in Missouri (far from Maine). It would involve my brother and sisters sans their mates and my neices and nephews and my parents. Of course without saying it would involve my wife being there as well.

3. Do you do have any holiday traditions?
My family does. Before opening the gifts we sing carols and my dad always reads the Christmas story from Luke 2. I hope to carry that tradition on with my own children someday. Christmas has been hard for us since we moved here so we have not really been in the mood to start any traditions of our own.

4. Do you do anything to help the needy?
I'm a Youth Pastor. Every teenager I know is needy.

5. What one gift would you like for yourself?
World Peace! Seriously, I really don't know of something that is possible that I just can't live without. If anything it would be enough money to pay off my student loans and get me out of debt.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Still Kickin'
Well I am FINALLY back in Maine. Not sure exactly if that is a good thing. But here we are. We extended our time away because of the GIANT Nor'easter that blew through at the end of last week. It was WONDERFUL being with our families. Still three weeks was FOREVER to be away. I needed to get back into a routine. I totally understand the concept that we all must have a reason to get up in the morning. As much as I would like to be a slacker I guess that is not in my make up.

I am a little under the weather and felt like calling in sick to the office today but that probably wouldn't be the best move after being gone for three weeks. I am opting out of a dance performance one of my students is in though. It is cold and gross out so I don't want to get out again the way I feel.

I was a little disappointed with the YS convention this year. None of the speakers did much for me. I was completely put off by Jay Baker, the son of Jim and Tammy Faye. He was not only a bitter young man but also spewed horrible theology as well. But I did get a lot of free stuff. So I guess in the end it is okay. I just hope that after all the Mike Yaconelli tributes and Jay Baker that new youth pastors or students were not disillusioned. I had one of my former students there and thankfully he seemed to sift through the bad stuff. I pray that all newbies were able to do as well as Ben.

We are having some "so were back in Maine" feelings. We do not feel like this area is our home. We realize that Jesus calls us to leave our homes and serve Him and here we are. The call is not always easy and certainly does not always make sense but what we must remember is it is His call not ours. That can sometimes be difficult to take but if we keep our focus on His will in the end we will be better for it.

All that sounds great. I just need to learn how to better live it.

On our journey we wound up at a Christian in store performance of the new Christian band Casting Crowns. It was excellent. I knew they had to be pretty good because Steven Curtis Chapman (a personal fav of mine) was producing their stuff. Still their mini-concert was great. Hearing from their hearts was great too. Particularly when the lead singer spoke of being a Youth Pastor and how he struggles with his worthiness for the call. Boy have I been (and usually still am) there. He sang a song called, The Voice Of Truth and I was so moved. The lyrics on the CD are great and I recommend that you run out and buy it now. You can go to their website at www.castingcrowns.com to check them out. They are all youth leaders at their churches and I think that is wicked cool!

Well I am sure that my thoughts will wonder more soon. I am off to watch TV with my beautiful wife!

Which Operating System Are You?

Of course this says I am punctual and straightforward. Maybe I am changing.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Friday Questions
Here are this week's questions.

1. What did you do for Thanksgiving? (For those non-US people what did
you do on your last holiday?)
2. What is your favourite dessert?
3. Does being far from family make it harder or easier for ministry?
4. What are you doing for the Christmas holidays?
5. Do you have your Christmas stuff up already?
6. What is one gift you are giving this season? Do you give your youth
7. What makes the holidays hard for you?

Bonus Questions:

A. What excellent program are you doing in 2004?
B. Any favourite sports teams

My Answers:

1. For the first time in four years (thanks to Youth Specialties) my wife and I are were able to be with BOTH our families in MIssouri for a holiday.
2. Turtle Cheesecake
3. It can be easier but it is SO HARD away from family and friends with whom you havce a history.
4. Going to spend it home.
5. Nope. My wife wanted to put them up before we left from Maine but I thought it was pushing the season.
6. Have not a clue!
7. Other than this holiday, being lonely for friends in family. It is hard to be in a church during the holidays b/c family is emphasized so much and you feel awful because you aren't ANYWHERE close to yours.

A. We are going to do an all night lockin at a place with laser tag and a climbing wall.
B. MLB- Cardinals NFL - Rams NHL - Blues (What can I say I am a St. Louis boy!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

In my quiet time this morning God really spoke to me about freedom in Christ. This is always a subject I have struggled with. I understand that under Christ's blood we are free. I also understand that God's Word says that all things are permissable but not all things are beneficial. I know that I don't have Carte Blanche to do what I want just because Christ died for me and I am a forgiven sinner. My struggle comes in finding true freedom through not sinning.

There are things in my life that have been struggles for me for a long time. I have prayed and they have left for a season only to return. I am immeidiately reminded of Paul's thorn in his flesh. I know that God is strongest when I am at my weakest but I am not sure how to harness that power when I need it most. I have said many times that as Chrisitans we have to rely on that power. I have to admit, sometimes I do not know how to do that myself.

"I am crucified in Christ therefore I no longer live, Jesus Christ now lives in me". That is a powerful statement. True freedom comes when we realize that we are not alive. The "me" that I was born as died when I was born again. Jesus Christ now lives in me. Freedom comes when I let Him truly take up residence in my heart. If He is living for me, I will flee temptation. I will embrace God's Word. I will walk my walk with fervor.

I long for that freedom. I realize that God will provide it for me if I will only let Him. When I am bound by sin's evilness, I will remind myself that I am FREE indeed because the Son has set me free.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Friday's Questions 7.22

This week's Friday's questions deal with theology and belief

1. How would you describe grace?
An undeserved gift that I can never understand.

2. What do you think of the church?
The church universal is God's bride and the representation of Christ's love on Earth. My church is sometime okay and sometimes frustrating as I am sure many are.

3. What is the Bible?
God's Word and the standard by which all things much be judged.

4. Who is Jesus to you?
My Savior and the Master and Commander of my life.

5. In the pursuit of theology; what authors would you recommend a look
J.I Paker, James P. Boyce

6. Recently there is a song with the lyrics "If we are the Body, why
aren't His hands reaching; why aren't his hands healing" In conviction
what are you doing to be a part of the Body and make it better?
Loving God and loving people. Trying to equip the saints to minister in their world everyday.

7. What is one fun (or 2) thing you did this past week?
Went to see the Warrior Poetes and had dinner before hand.


A. What is your statement of belief? God is everything.

B. Any ideas for Student Ministry Christmas Get togethers?
I sometimes believe that the most profound passage of Scripture in the Bible is Romans 7. Paul just hits me right in the place where I live when he starts to talk about wanting to do good and not doing it and not wanting to do bad and doing it. I hate sin. I hate the things that keep me from God but somehow I still wind up in the big middle of the same things I have struggled with for over two decades. I can't help but feel so much guilt as I want to do what God wants me to do and to stay away from the things he does not but I always seem to mess up.

I am sick of feeling bad. I want to defeat the enemy and live a full life that is all God wants. Still, just when I think I may have it licked --- boom I fall again.

Thankfully God does not think like I do. He is willing to forgive. My heart must be broken and contrite and Ihave to be sincere in my Godly sorrow but he gives me grace. He doesn't say that it is okay that I am sinning but he does say that in spite of who I am and the sin that so easily entangles me, he is there to show me love.

Today that is good to know. I am hoping that I can keep centered and step back on the road to glory. Pressing on, the grace and love of God welcoming me and my repentence. Even when I do what I do not want to do, God still loves me. Grace, an undeserved gift that I can never understand.
Okay so here is my latest entry. I will be gone for a few weeks and probably won't be able to post for awhile. I am steaming right now from some stuff on my listserve. People can be so stupid. You see I have been on the YouthPastor.com listserve since 1997 and about 3 times a year or so some DULL debates come up and it is the same crap everytime. One of these is the my translation is better than your translation debate. The list gets flamed for several days (and sometimes weeks) and we get ABSOLUTELY nowhere. What bothers me is today another "old timer" on the list tried to get all superior on me when I posted that I get tired of the babble and basically tried to make me look shallow and stupid to the list. I NEVER want to be like those people. They are the ones that make the list frustrating. I think if I was not stuck here in MAINE far from any othe YPs I would just say go bite yourselves and leave the lsit. I may get 1 or 2 good ideas in a year from the list and the STUPIDITY sometimes is not worth it!

This was my response:
BLAH BLAH BLAH ... I simply meant this NEVER gets us
anywhere. I have been on this list for like 6 years or
so now and this same subject jumps up on a regular
basis and I have NEVER seen anyone persuaded or the
Kingdom furthered by this debate. Sorry if others
disagree but I feel that way. Scripture is VERY
important but everyone can talk until they are blue in
the face and I won't change may stance (which I choose
to keep to myself) on prefered translations. I am all
for intelligent debate but once you have been here for
awhile you have heard all thearguments 1000 times.
I already studied this in 7years of higher education
and have my ideas on the subject firmly planted. So I
guess I could just sit byand wait to sound intellegent by
using saracasim but Iguess I'll just leave tomorrow
for the YS conventioninstead. This topic bites. It bores

Anyway that is my rant for the day!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Yesterday my friend, Mark and I went to Gordon College's Youth Pastor's Symposium. This year's topic was ministering to kids in crisis. It was originally scheduled for last Monday but the speaker was Rich Van Pelt who works with YS and had flown to California for Yac's funeral so they postponned it a week.

I gleaned some good quotes there but that was about it. It wasn't a borning seminar but some of it was stuff I have known for years. Especially the afternoon section on Dealing With Moral Failure. The session on Ministering To The Communiuty In Crisis was pretty good.

Yac was somewhat present as Rich Van Pelt brought the funeral program for us to look at. He also quoted Yac and I liked the quote. It was, "Teenagers are crap detectors". I believe that completely. They really do know when we are a ginuine and when we are not.

Anyway gordon is like 2 hours away and we had to leave at 6:15 yesterday morning. We didn't get back until about 5:15 and Kendra and I were only able to share a breif meal before the first of my guys in the Tuesday Night Senior High Bible study got here. By 5:30 we were sharing our meal with a high school seniopr which was cool. He and I got talking and he had a pretty HUGE problem and we talked about it but we got interupted by the other guys gettng here. We had Bible studya nd then I took the guy out for coffee and prayed together and I tried to help him get things right. While I was out Kendra called my cella nd told me that another kid (the same one who was here until 2AM LAST Tuesday) was waiting to talk at home. We finished up and I came back and counseled with him until after 11 then answered some emails. I didn't get into bed until after midnight. It was quite the 18 hour day!
I also got a littled miffed with an email I got and it made me angry and hard to get to sleep. I am just really struggling with what God wants for me as an Elder of our congregation. I know I need to affect change and I just have to stand up for my beliefs no matter the opposition. I see the potential of this congregation if the leadership will wake up and come into the 21st century from its 1965 mindset. I stayed home today and worked here. That helped!

Friday, November 07, 2003

Friday's Questions And Answers
Every Friday G-man from the YouthPastor.com listserv posts questions for us all to answer. I will post the ones I contribute to here each week. Here is your first installment of my answers:

OK. Here is this week's 7 questions. Week 21. On ministry, life, and the spiritual journey.

1. What is one book you would recommend to an upcoming youthworker?
Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry by Doug Fields

2. What is one devotional book you would recommend to students?
My Utmost For His Highest

3. Where did you go to school?
Central Visual and Performing Arts High School - St. Louis MO
Missouri Baptist College - Creve Coeur, MO
The Southern Baptist Seminary - Louisville, KY

4. What site or sites do you find helpful in your ministry?
youthspecialties.com, Egad, Jonathan's Resources, Worship Together, Kerusso Drama, xxxchurch.com

5. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the least; 10 being the greatest) where would you say your relationship with your spouse is? (If single where would you say your relationship with others is?)
8-9 Always room for improvement. Our love is deep. I need to work on being a better spiritual leader.

6. What do you envision for 2004?
That God will continue to bring new students to our ministry and that we would see souls saved.

7. What is God convicting in your life right now?
Being the best Jasper I can be (i.e., Husband, Son, Brother, Friend, Pastor). Being a better spiritual leader at home (see question 5). Needing to take a stand on things that really matter even if I stand alone. No compromise even if I am outnumbered in my views on theology at my church.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

So where to begin? Well I am very patriotic and support our armed forces completely but sometimes how things get done stump me. My sister-in-law, Aislinn is a 1st lieutenant in the army and just graduated from Officer Basic Course on October 25. She was told that she would be deployed to either Germany or Hawaii at the end of November. So she planned a two week trip to visit us in Maine. We were all excited and go to pick her up at the airport last night at 10:30 PM. When we find her at the luggage carousel she tells us that she had just called my mother-in-law to let her know she had arrived safely and her Mom told her that the Army had called and she had to report for active duty on Friday afternoon at one o'clock. LIKE FRIDAY AS IN TODAY!!! So we had to race home and find an early return flight to Kansas City so she could get everything together on Thursday to report for duty on Friday. We had to charge another plane ticket (one way $600) to get her back home. We decided that if she was getting deployed there is even an outside chance that she may not come back (okay we don't really want to think about that) so we needed to stay up all night and make the most of the 7 hours or so we would have together before she had to leave. We did stay up and it was fun. As you may recall I was up with the screaming father and son until 2AM on Wednesday morning so sleep has not be easy to get this week.
So we go to Denny's for breakfast at 5:00AM (and I got to see a guy snort cocaine --- not what I WANTED to witness) off of one of the tables there. Then we were off to the airport and put Aislinn back on a plane. We came home and went to sleep for a couple of hours (Kendra called out of work) and at about 10 o'clock an unknown female from the army called asking for Aislinn. We told her she was already on a plane home and the women commented that was too bad because they decided she wasn't needed right away and they called to tell her she could stay for awhile. We later found out only until Saturday because she now has to report by like 5PM on Sunday but at the time we were HACKED!
So I go to church because I am supposed to have a drama team practice at 2:30 or so. I so wanted just to go to sleep but we have only had one practice for a skit that we are performing next Thursday at TNT (our mid-week youth program). Well at about 2:45, the church secretary calls me and tells me that the kids in the skit called and said they couldn't be there because "something had come up." LET ME TELL YOU WHAT HAD COME UP FOR ME AND I WAS THERE! But I am not bitter.
So I hung out at church because we had no TNT this week because Michael W. Smith and Mercy Me were in concert and we were going to that instead. So the kids all got there and off we went. The concert was actually very nice and it was good to see all our friends in the Christian community in Southern Maine. I did feel old because a lot of MWS older stuff I knew every word to but the kids we took were CLUELESS. By the way, Smitty is still a great performer but lets talk about someone who is looking OLD these days! LOL! Then we went to McDonald's and back to the church. I had a great time bonding with the kids. But needless to say it has been a whirlwind couple of days !
We have our annual Leaf Raking day on Saturday. Should be fun. Then we have a small group dinner thing at one of the church member's house and then my friend Sonya will be here. What a busy life!
If anyone in cyberspace is actually reading these things, please keep Aislinn in your prayers. Her walk with the Lord has not been incredibly deep of late and we are concerned that she may be going into physical battle a little spiritually unready. We marked up her Bible a lot last night with passages that mean a lot to us. I hope they help her on the field. Please pray against Afghanistan or Iraq and for Hawaii in particular as my mother-in-law wants to take Kendra there to visit as a retirement gift to herself. Also, it is way more safe for obvious reasons. We are trusting in the Lord knowing that the safest place to be is where God wants you and under His protection!
Well, I am SO going to bed now! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The following is a newsletter article I wrote when I was on staff at First Baptist Church of Lemay just outside St. Louis, Missouri. The article was written the day of the funeral of one of my former students who had committed suicide.

I buried a kid today. As I sit here trying to record my thoughts, my heart is aching. Kim was the sunshine of life. She was a beautiful girl. Her outer beauty was apparent to everyone but those who knew her saw her inner beauty as well. She had a big, broad smile that was gentle and sweet. But something went wrong. She decided that life wasn't worth the sacrifice. She decided that the day to day struggles of making it work were too difficult. She took her own life.

As I held her mother in my arms and tried to comfort her, I knew there are no words for a time like this. There is no miracle healing balm that makes the wounded whole. My feelings are an odd mixture of disbelief, deep sorrow, and guilt. Inevitably I wonder if I could have been a better youth minister. What could I have done with this child whom God entrusted to my care? What could I have done that may have helped her to find a hope in the hopelessness? Could I have prayed for her more? Could I have challenged her more? Could I have made Jesus more real to her? Could I have done something to show her that 17 years are only the beginning of life and there are so many joys to come that completely outweigh the sorrows?

There are too many questions and not enough answers. I cling ever so tightly to my favorite passage of Scripture, Jeremiah 29:11. Here God promises me that there is a future and a hope. Right now both are hard to see. Somehow God will use Kim's death for His glory. Right now, I wish she was alive and He was using her life.

As much as I hurt, I cannot help but think of her mother. A Christian for only a few years, I remember when Pat "walked down the aisle" of the little inner city church where I was serving. Her mother, who had prayed for her for years, cried. My mother, who had also prayed for her salvation, cried. And as I led music that morning, I fought back tears of joy as well. Pat faced great opposition to her Christianity at work, but she always persevered. Yesterday she could not speak due to the overwhelming grief. I worry what will become of her. I pray diligently and with all the strength I can muster that God will give her peace. I pray that He will show her, before any of the rest of us, a future and a hope.

There is so little time to make a difference. I was Kim's youth pastor for three years and then God called me to another place of service. There is little I wouldn't do now to go back and spend all the one on one time I could, training and loving a hurting girl. I know I must look to the future. I know I must learn from this tragedy. With all that I am as a minister I have to instill in the hearts of young people that God does give hope. Our lives are never without a future. God loves us. As I look into the faces of the youth I have now, I want to see hope. I find myself wanting to hold them tightly and just yell, "Never let go of Jesus!"

Kim felt that ending her life would end pain. It has only increased it for those of us left behind. Together we can help one another find the hope we will all need. The Christian life is all about hope. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for. I want to dedicate my life to sharing and growing that hope in my own life as well as the lives of all those whom God makes me a watchman. Kim may not have seen that hope but I will do all I can to make sure that no one else in my life is ever blind to the hope of the living God.

I buried a kid today. I pray that with her I buried hopelessness. I pray that I will be resurrected a different man of God. I pray that I will be a lighthouse to guide others to hope.
Leaning On Jesus
Why is it that so often we try to do things in our own strength? It seems like time after time we do not reap the rewards of simply giving difficult things to God. I have just come from one of the times I have seen God move when I simply let Him.

Our youth ministry has been going through some difficulties lately. I am sure you have had seasons in ministry when you can not quite pinpoint what is not going as it should but you are aware that things just aren't "clicking". Our ministry is at a plateau and I have had difficulties pulling it out of its rut. So when it came time to plan our annual retreat, I was a little under enthused. I also was serving our congregation in a temporary music leader role that was requiring much of my time.

With these things put together, I dragged my feet on securing a theme and talent for the retreat. We were just two weeks from the retreat dates when the Lord spoke and I decided to have several different ministry friends come and build the theme over a two day period. I prayed and left the results in God's hands. I felt like there was nothing I could do to make the retreat work.

I was right. I could do nothing more but the things God did were incredible. In these two days I saw God work through the retreat in a powerful way. He used the four speakers to ignite a flame in our group. They challenged them to live their lives for such a time as this and I saw my group get excited about what God could do through them. I saw them participate in authentic worship. I saw church members open their homes with a wonderful sense of hospitality. This hospitality has built bridges between the youth and these church members. All it took was my obedience. As the leader of the group, I had to submit to our Heavenly Father's plan. He needed to hear me say take it all. I can do nothing more. After this admission, God became our feet, our arms and our voice. He used four men dedicated to Him to affect my group. I am happy that I stopped and turned it over to Him.
How Do YOU Measure Success
Lydia started attending our youth meetings about a year and a half ago. I can’t say just when it was but I know it was cold and dark outside. Our outside surroundings were a lot like her on the inside. Lydia is a beautiful young girl but in her eyes lies a profound sadness. They tell of her years of living a hard life.

I saw that pain at the first event she attended. She seemed unimpressed and I wondered if we would ever see her again. Then she became a regular mid-week attendee. She was at our meetings like clockwork and I remember noting that though she was always there, she still seemed a bit lethargic. To my surprise, she soon began coming to Sunday services and became a Christian.

I quickly learned how troubled her life was. She lived in a non-Christian home. Her father had alcoholic tendencies. Her mother was ill. Lydia had attempted suicide several times.

One day, soon after she became a church member, Lydia was sitting in my office with a friend, sobbing. She had attempted suicide again. This time she tried to stab herself in the stomach. Her father was being verbally abusive and it was only getting worse as his drinking became more intense. We talked for a couple of hours and then prayed together. I assured her I would be available whenever she needed me.

As time went on, Lydia became a central student in our ministry. She became one of the kids that you know will show up to every event. She was quite often early. Mostly, I believe, to get away from home. She was plagued with problems. Most of these are related to her family. My heart went out to her many times as we would discuss her trials.

Then one day she stopped by to talk to me. Things at home were different. Her father had stopped drinking. He was being kind. Her life was going better. We soon found out, however, that her father had stopped drinking because he was being heavily medicated. He had an inoperable tumor at the base of his skull. It would often disturb his nervous system and he would have violent seizures. He was a more loving father but he was very sick. Next, we found out that he was terminally ill. He had a degenerative bone disease. No one in the family was employed. The family was financial crippled.

The situation came to a head just as our summer activities were beginning for the year. Not only had her father's illness worsened; their home was going into foreclosure from debts owed to many different institutions. Yet, in the midst of these struggles, I saw Lydia "get it". In the middle of the pain she was enduring, God was making Lydia realize her role in the ministry of our group.

Lydia was a part of our drama team and she was performing in a particularly difficult skit. In it she played a young girl who was feeling that God was very far away from her when she needed him most. The character that she was portraying on the stage, was a mirror of her own life. In the skit the character's father was dying. In the skit the character's family did not know how they would meet their bills. An interpretive movement (or human video) followed the skit. In this movement as a song was sung about the need for closeness with Christ, Lydia rested in the arms of Jesus, being played by another youth. Her performance was remarkable. No one who saw the skit remained unmoved by its message.

Still, it was intense for its star. Lydia would often break down in tears after she left the stage. She realized the skit's impact but it was incredibly difficult for her to perform.

Then God moved. When our drama team performed the skit at youth camp, the audience was deeply touched. Many people came to Lydia that night to tell her what an excellent job she had done "acting". They were unaware of how art was imitating life in front of them. The next night Lydia shared with the camp the struggles her family was facing with her father's illness. It was difficult for her but she tentatively asked that the camp pray for her family's salvation and then returned to her seat.

That night she received a note from another camper. The letter told her how much the skit had moved her. She explained how she too, had a sick father. The writer however, had not yet shared this information with anyone. She went on to tell Lydia that after seeing the skit and hearing Lydia's story, she had found the courage to tell her youth group and have them pray with her.

At that moment Lydia was beginning to see herself as a minister of God's love. The girl with the quiet disposition and the sad eyes was being used by the Creator. She was taking her own pain and encouraging other
Christians to rely on Jesus for strength. She saw how God was using her difficulties for his glory.

We performed the skit several other times that summer. Usually Lydia would end up in tears but they were tears of resolve, not defeat. She saw how time and time again, God was using her to heal hurts in the hearts of His saints. Sometimes it was almost more than she could bear, but her ministry kept her going.

On days that I feel like a failure I think of Lydia. I think she is the ultimate example of success in youth ministry. When she first began attending our meetings she was bound for hell. In our earthly efforts God created a heavenly miracle and she found eternal life. She grew spiritually as her attendance continued. Then she realized a purpose for her life. She saw a path of ministry. She took hold of the opportunity set before her and in the midst of deep personal struggles she ministered to others.

Too often it seems that our churches want to measure success on numbers. If we all had a dollar for the times we have asked or been asked, "how many students are in your group," we could retire to a nice quiet condominium in a distant foreign land. Numbers are important. Numerical growth is the natural outcome of spiritual growth. The problem comes when increasing attendance drives our purpose. Success in ministry does not lie with numerical changes; it lies with changes of the heart. Success is much more than having a large group. Success is developing ministers. Success is investing time in a life and seeing that life change others. God measures success from the inside out. So should we.
Sometimes Kids Will Surprise You
Sometimes kids will surprise you. Just when you think that they are tired of you and wish anyone else would come to fill your shoes, they surprise you with an act of reassuring love.

I had a moment like that today. We have been rehearsing all week for this year's dinner theatre performance. The students have been giving 100% (okay more like 57% but we have been having a good time together). This is the beginning of a summer full of activity that follows one of the worst winters in my ministry. I am feeling disjointed as personal issues and increasing ministry demands are keeping me away from spending time with my students. I am at once looking forward to and dreading the three solid weeks of camp, mission trip and Bible School that will bind me to this group.

After rehearsal today some of the students just hung out with me. It was nice. I counseled one girl on grieving the death of her aunt. I showed a little extra affection to the one boy who has stuck it out in my Thursday discipleship group. I tried to cheer up a girl who is heartbroken that her best friend likes the same boy she does. I talked with a girl about her friend who got saved at camp last summer, who is not attending youth meetings anymore. I was feeling a certain sense of accomplishment as I did all of these things while typing the dinner theatre program.

Then it happened. One of the students came into the office and said he needed to talk to me in the fellowship hall. I knew immediately that something was up. As we started down the steps he pulled me away from the hallway that led to windows where I could see my house.

My first thought was, "oh no, they teepeed us!" I was certain that they didn't want to spoil that moment by me seeing it too early. Two students led me by the hands down the steps and to the fellowship hall door. They opened the door and led me into the dark meeting room. As we came around the corner, I noticed my wife being led into the room from another entrance in the same fashion. On the fellowship hall stage, the lights were dimly lit and there was a table with a lovely tablecloth, a candle, two place settings, and fancy chairs (stolen from the foyer of the church).

At the table stood one of our students with a dishtowel draped over his arm. "May I seat you Madame?" He asked my wife. He pulled out her seat and she sat down. He asked me the same and I sat as well. "Red or White?" He asked. My wife ordered white. I, still not knowing exactly what to expect ordered red.

Our "waiter" soon returned with a bowl of ice and two bottles of sparkling cider, chilling. As two of our girls filled our salad bowls, our waiter opened the cider and filled our glasses. My wife and I laughed in amazement of the pampering we were getting.

Dinner talk was a little awkward when every few moments someone would pop their head out of the kitchen door to see how we were reacting but it was worth it. We shared laughter and pride as the students brought us the main course, a hamburger for each of us from the nearest fast food restaurant. Mine without pickles, just the way I like it. The meal continued with canned peaches and concluded with hot apple pie ala mode.

I convinced my wife that we should dance in the soft light to the mellow praise and worship CD that was providing our background dinner music. As we started dancing the students filed into the rear of the fellowship hall and watched on with interest and smiling. When we finished our dance, I grabbed my wife and gave her a huge kiss as our students applauded from the shadows.

As we picked up the check for our meal, we found each scrumptious item listed on a well prepared napkin. Next to the total it said simply, "Happy Anniversary".
We had been married for a month and they remembered and showed us a little love.

As we walked away from our elegant dining experience, I could not help but be filled with pride. They are getting it. After a wonderful week of hard work and good times, they took time out to minister to me. They showed me a little of the Jesus we talk so much about. They were displaying love to a weary worker for the Lord. They refreshed me. I found myself wishing we could leave for camp right then, while their hearts were fresh from service and mine was refreshed by their love.

Unfortunately camp is still two weeks away, mission trip is four. However, when the going gets tough on those trips this year, I will do my best to remember this day. On this day that I saw Christ in the students whom are entrusted to me. On this day that I saw something in them that I want more in me. On this day their simple love and service renewed my heart. Sometimes they do surprise you. Those days may be few and far between but as I reflect on this near perfect day, I know they are worth the wait.
Spiritual Battles And Being Like Jesus
Somedays being in ministry does not seem rewarding. Let's admit it; ours is a thankless task. We work with adolescents. They are big jumbled mess of hormones, acne, and emotion. They are too young to fly solo but too old for training wheels. They are desperately trying to find their place in the world.

Fortunately for them God has given them us. We are the beacon of light in the darkness. We are the hope in the struggle. We are the miracle cure to all their problems provided by the almighty creator of the universe! Too bad they don't appreciate us. Too bad they don't realize the immense impact we are having on their lives. Too bad they don't understand that we have chosen to spend extra time with them to teach them and show them the way.
I suppose now would be a good time to turn of my special "saracastic font" and step back into reality.Lest we get puffed up let's remember why we do this job in the first place. 2 Corinthians 10:31 says whatever we do we should be doing it to glorify God. As much as they may help, we are not in this for the accolades involved. We are chosen by God to lead others.

I remember the spiritual warfare retreat I did with one youth group. The two-day adventure was going to be great. We would take a small band of weary kids to an out of the way cabin in the woods and would return them to the city as vibrant vessels of God fit for war. We had large group times planned. We had small groups assigned. We had powerful praise and worship. We had intense role playing where the students would actually battle Satan and his cronies with nothing but prayer and the word of God. The one thing we were not prepared for was the grumbling in the ranks. I had not planned that one student felt forced to go on the trip by his best friend when he would rather be on a date with his latest girlfriend. I had not prepared for the emotional outburst of a senior high student who yelled at me and then took off without telling anyone. I was equally unready for weary adult leaders who just wanted to pack everyone up, go home and resign from our ministry. All these things cycled out of control and I just stood, mouth agape, wondering what had happened to all those great plans we had.

Fortunately, a friend who had come along as a small group leader reminded me that we are always in the midst of spiritual warfare. I was reminded that these events were real life portrayals of the topic for the retreat. Yet, I questioned my value. I questioned my call. I even questioned my leadership abilities. I mean these thankless brats had gotten a two day trip away from home during winter break, five great meals, loving leadership and a sweatshirt to boot. They should be groveling at my feet thanking me for all I had done for them, right?

But suddenly I am reminded of another leader at another time. He came to work with thankless people. He had a small band of soldiers who he taught regularly. There were twelve. The same as the number of students that I had brought on the retreat. Those twelve guys watched Him heal the sick. They watched Him raise the dead. They watched Him feed multitudes with morsels. Still, in the crunch, they were thankless. They wanted to know who He loved most. They wanted to have earthly power. In a phrase, they just didn't "get it". At one point they deserted Him. They denied they ever knew Him. They walked away from all He had taught them.

Still, this leader did not give up. He was in the battle for the long haul. He was willing to trust them with the most important task and message the world has ever known. Physically, He was not there to witness their shining moments. He had returned home. Yet, that ragtag group of thankless men went on to take the time, love, and wisdom invested in them and set the world on fire. Apparently they had been listening. Evidently they took some of the three years of modeling and applied it.

Somedays in ministry I just want to pack my bags and give up. I wonder how often Jesus felt like that. I wonder how many times He grew frustrated with Peter being bullheaded or John and James wanting all the attention. Still, He loved them and continued to serve them even unto death.

There is a lot a minister can learn from the Master's example. Ours may be a thankless task but the eternal rewards of faithfulness is the best thanks we could ever earn.
Okay, so don't expect every week to be like this but this BLOG thing is still new and I also have an easy week at work so ...
Last night I was up until 2:00AM with a college aged kid who used to be in our youth ministry. He is searching out his love life (or lack thereof) and has found that he has made some mistakes in this area and that some of them are haunting him now. I tried to impress upon him the need to have a genuine walk with Christ. He kept telling me how he was getting closer to God but then admitted to not having a consistent quiet time at all. I had to go in for the blunt kill and tell him his relationship with God could not possible be GREAT as he proclaimed if he was never spending time in God's Word and prayer. He was pretty caught.
He wants to begin pursuing a girl whom he says he really feels is "the one". Now he is only 18 so I try to remind him that there could be many others before "the one." Suddenly I feel as though I am speaking of Neo in the Matrix. But anyway, he agreed to not move on that relationship until he had two months solid of quiet times without missing one. The thing about this kid is I really care about him but sometimes feel like he is not being completely honest with me. Sometimes I am sure he is just telling me what he thinks I want to hear. That is sometimes the difficult part of being a Youth Pastor. Kids can't always be completely transparent. Or at least they feel like they can't.
So, at about 1:45 AM or so someone pulled into our driveway. It was the guy's dad out looking for him. He hadn't told his parents he'd be home late and apparently this was the third time this scenario had played out in two weeks. It got pretty ugly. I did my best to remain neutral in the doom that came when his dad showed up. I can see both sides. For the guy, he is 18 and employed. His parents can't continue to treat him like a little kid but I also understand that he is living at home rent free and needs to be responsible enough to let his parents know where he is and when he may be late getting home. His dad was still yelling at him about how he was going to yell at him when they got home as they went to their cars in our driveway. They guy is stopping by the office on his way home tonight. From what I hear he was pretty shaken up and quiet at work today. I am not completely sure what I am going to say to him but I guess it is nice to know he wants my support.
So that is the update on the last 24 hours. Kendra's sister Aislinn gets here at ten thirty tonight and it is WICKED cold! Sonya will be here around 9:00PM on Saturday. So we will have a funfilled weekend ahead of us! I'm looking forward to visits from home. I can't believe the NYWC is only 2 weeks away. That is AWESOME! Missouri here we come. I have been oddly homesick the past few weeks. I have not been missing people as much as the familiarity of being in my home town. I am looking forward to driving down the streets where I grew up. I better stop I am getting a little choked up just thinking about it!
Okay so these are sort of in order but not completely:
1. The Bible (DUH!)
2. The Hiding Place
3. My Utmost For His Highest
4. Ordinary People
5. Immanuel: Reflections On The Life Of Christ
6. Just Like Jesus
7. This Present Darkness
8. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry
9. Youth Ministry Management Tools
10. Finishing Strong

Again, these are not necessarily in order and I found it kind of hard to come up with ten. I love to read but I think it takes a lot to really affect me. The youth ministry books I listed are books that have really helped me in my ministry and I think thus, have changed my life.
Perfect Strength And Why I Am A Youth Pastor

Jasper Speaks:

I had my first youth pastor position in my home church in St. Louis, Missouri. I served there officially only a few months when I went away to seminary in Kentucky because, after all, isn't that what you are supposed to do after you graduate college? When I left I was serving in an inner-city church that had about 10 kids in the youth group. The church ran around 40 in Sunday School so proportionally it was very good.

Grace, the church where I served, is a unique place. It has been around for about 50 years or so and its Pastor is an ex-sharecropper from Arkansas. He and his wife minister in the nearly all black inner city despite their white, sometimes prejudiced, upbringing. They are gifted in showing love and making people think they can make it through anything. Most of the time, they are right. I learned much in the time I served the church but even though I now know God called me to seminary for that specific time, I was not so sure once I got there.

You see, in early March, I got one of those phone calls every youth pastor fears. Landon, one of the core kids in Grace's group, had been killed. Landon was not a punk kid. He was the product of a single family home. He struggled some in school. He was never wealthy. He never knew what "comfortable finances" were. He was a good kid and lived real life.

Unfortunately, just weeks after his mother moved to a better neighborhood, Landon returned to where they used to live to see friends. As he came out of a corner market, a fifteen-year old saw his gold necklace. He ordered Landon to give it to him. Landon resisted. After a brief struggle, Landon was laying on the street corner, with a hole in his chest from a gunshot and no necklace around his neck. He lived real life and he died real life.

When I got the call I knew I had to leave. I started home first thing the following morning. I knew the church, the youth group, and especially Landon's mother needed me. I was overwhelmed with grief. I had no idea what I was going to say or do to try and help. I felt a great sense of loss. I felt like I had abandoned Landon and the other youth when they really need me. As I drove through Indiana, my eyes were full of tears. I would sob for awhile and then my throat would tighten and tears would silently fall. How would I find the strength to make it through the next week?

Then, through my little stereo sitting next to me (my car had no cassette player) I began to listen a little more closely to a tape of favorite music I had made several weeks before. I heard Steven Curtis Chapman singing a song I knew very well. As I tried to drive through my tears, I found myself singing along and claiming the song as a Word from God. I sang, "His strength is perfect, when our strength is gone, He'll carry us when we can't carry on. Raised in his power, the weak become strong. His strength is perfect. His strength is perfect." I continued to cry, yet now I had a resolve like I had not had before. I was going to make it through this battle. However, I was not going to do it in my own strength. Steven's song reminded me that there is a higher strength that works best when I can't do anything.

I went through that week with that thought in mind. My heart was very heavy. I had no words of comfort that could heal the broken hearts around me. I did have the privilege of speaking at Landon's funeral. As I looked out at the crowd before me, I saw Joyce, Landon's mom. There was heartbreak in her eyes but a smile on her face. We knew Landon knew Christ and in this knowledge we found hope. I could sense that her strength, like my own, was sapped. Still, God's strength was perfect. He carried us through a time when we just could not carry on.

I ended up coming home after that semester of seminary. I returned to Grace to minister to the youth that had come to mean so much to me. I stayed there two and a half more years before moving on to my next church. I learned a valuable lesson when Landon died. It is one I have taken with me the many times I have gotten the type of phone call every person fears. God's strength is perfect. His strength does not make the difficulties disappear but He does carry us through them.

If I try hard enough, I can still see Landon's funny grin. It is a little toothless from a mishap at school when he was just a kid. I miss that smile. If I had my way, Landon would be graduated from college right now. He would be about 27 years old. I would love to be able to envision him with a family and great job. However, as I find is often the case, God had another plan. You see there are two things I know without a doubt. Landon's Heavenly promotion helped to work out God's plan in many lives and God's perfect strength carried us through the hard times. It is still carrying us today. Just this past February Landon's Mother joined him in Heaven. This time I couldn't get back home to be with those who loved her. I drew on the lesson God taught me through Landon. God's strength is perfect when our strength is gone. I praise God that He carries us when we can't carry on. Being one who has been raised in His power, I will tell you the weak do become strong. Oh yes, His strength is perfect. His strength is perfect.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Tuesday's First Ramble
So here I am at the office and thought I would add some of my thoughts onto here. It has already been a boring day. We don't have TNT this week so I don't have a message to prepare. I am kind of working on next week's already but it is hard to see a need for a rush. John, the AP, has hives and is not in today and Ron, the Senior, is out running errands so here I am alone!
Okay, let me talk about Maine for a moment. It can be SO frustrating. We just got a fax machine for the office (welcome to 1989, right?). The phone company came by yesterday to install the line we need for it and left without doing anything because they had no clue! HELLO? YOU ARE THE PHONE COMPANY! This state really bites! I long to be back in civilization. God has me here right now but I HATE Maine. I am SO trapped. Even my keychain is a picture of a bunch of lobsters in a trap and it says "Trapped In Maine". Oh well!
My sister-in-law comes in town tomorrow. Herr name is Aislinn and she just finished her officer's basic course for the army. She doesn'treally know where she is going to be stationed but knows that she will ship out probably at the end of the month. So she is coming to spend a couple of weeks here with us. She wins the prize for most Maine visits with five after this trip. It will be nice and I think it will be especially good for Kendra.
My dear old friend Sonya will be here this weekend as well. She will be coming in on Saturday afternoon. I can't wait to see her! I have not seen her since our wedding I don't think and then of course we did not do much quality time. She is one of my oldest Christian friends. We have known each other like 18 years or something like that. I am SO OLD!!! It will be great having her here.
My quiet time today was in the First chapter of 2 Corinthians. Mostly I remember it talking about God giving us comfort. That is a great concept. I am very glad that God loves us enough to give us His comfort. My article for the church newsletter this month was kind of about that. I have gotten some positive response back from it. I love to write and just need to take the time to do it more often. I suppose that could classify as a hobby! I often think I have no hobbies but I love writing and movies. So there. That is my answer about hobbies!
Well I guess I better move along to do more work here today. Only 15 more days until we leave for Missouri and the National Youth Worker's Convention. I know it will be somewhat a downer because of Mike Yaconelli's death last week but I still look forward to the worship and the retreat and BEING HOME! WOO-HOO!

Monday, November 03, 2003

Okay I feel a little guilty about the ramblings that are bad about my church so here is a longer ramble about the good stuff.

Here is a recap of the blessings God has given us through HCBC since we arrived on July 3, 2000. Most of the time I love Hollis Center Baptist Church. It is a Godly, caring congregation where I am blessed to be one of three pastors. Three and a half years ago, the church called my wife and I to be the first Youth pastors they have ever had. The Senior and Associate Pastors have been much more than supportive of me. They compliment me from the pulpit, stand behind my decisions and have become father/mentor figures to me in the faith. (I also had a WONDERFUL relationship with my last SP and I know that I am blessed for that).

Before our arrival the church found us a nice apartment, paid the moving expenses and our first month's rent and security deposit. They offer me four weeks of vacation a year (of which I took three last year and am busier this year and may only take 1.5 but EVERYONE nags me about taking more time off so I can be refreshed). After seven years of service I am offered an 18 month sabbatical. They also encourage any kind of developmental meetings I see the need to attend.

When we got here they pounded us with non perishables and "meated" us with so much meat we could put nothing else in the freezer. We didn't have to buy anything but liquid products at the grocery store for three months!

On our third week here Kendra was in a car accident that totaled our only vehicle (Jasper's beloved Eagle Vision TSI). That Sunday the needwas presented in church and by 1PM that afternoon we had a car given to us.

It was the Hooptie of our dreams and Jasper was a madman behind its wheels.
With the insurance money from the Eagle we were able to purchase a van that we use frequently for youth outings. In November of our first year, we had a problem requiring $700 to repair. It happened right at Christmas time. We scraped the money together and got the van fixed. One night we came home and found two fifty dollar bills in a card on the wreath on our door. The card insisted we spend the money ONLY on Christmas presents for each other and was anonymous. The following Sunday at church I was given an envelope. When I got home in it was a note from the board of elders saying they all chipped in and gave us the $700 as a gift. This was above and beyond my Christmas bonus (my first ever in ministry).

Our first mission trip here was in July 2001. Jasper took 10 students and two leaders out of the country! (okay it was to New Brunswick, Canada but it was his first international trip) We painted a lot and bonded even more. It was really this trip and this time away with the students that became a turning point in the ministry here. The kids began to accept us and we felt like we had begun to establish deep relationships with them. IT ROCKED! However on that trip, I had an accident in a borrowed van. The damage was $1700. No one yelled. No one threatened to fire me. The board voted unanimously to pay for all the repairs. No questions asked. A blessing both to me and to the family who so graciously gave us their vehicle. It is running fine.

Another Christmas came and with it came another Christmas bonus!

In April 2002, when Kendra's father passed away somewhat suddenly, we had to travel at the spur of the moment to Missouri from Maine. This was not a cost we saw coming. When we returned, the church had taken a collection that completely paid our airfare and expenses. No questions asked.

Our apartment was not working out. Even after the first year we were frustrated with living there but had no other real options. We had a landlord who is kind of a modern Jekyl and Hyde and over charged us for EVERYTHING. A family in the church heard about some of our struggles there and offered to let us move into the brand new 1300 square foot apartment they were building over their garage. Not only are they former youth leaders with a pool and a black top basketball court in their backyard which have been open to the youth group whenever we want it, they are wonderful people whom we have wanted to get to know better since we came here. Everything in the apartment is brand new. They even let us choose the countertops, carpet and appliances. We moved here in June of 2002 and now pay $170 a month less in rent. God bless Steve and Lori!

Our church is not full of rich people. We are a medium sized working class congregation. The people here just give from their hearts and sees that the Lord's blessing comes when they do that.

Boundless love and support have been shown to us in these nearly four years. Not every day has been perfect. I have had struggles with teens, parents, youth workers and other church members but always God has worked out the problems with little long term issues. There are somethings I have still to work out as far as my theology versus the theology of my church. Still I do see Jesus in these people!

Recently, when we thought God may be calling us away from here, the leaders of the church embraced us and encouraged us to follow God's leading. They did not wish for us to go but they were eager for us to see what God's plan was for us. We ended up staying. We were welcomed with enthusiasm and love as if nothing had happened.

Another free car became ours a couple of months ago. Another church member knew the Hooptie had gone to Hooptie Heaven and generously gave us their second vehicle when they got a new one! WOW!

Not everything the church has done for us is listed here. That would take up WAY TOO MUCH time. Our church is not perfect as I have stated before, Utopia does not exist. It ain't perfect, but I see Jesus in this congregation EVERYDAY.

The first three and a half years have been exciting. We have flown more than ever before and have become quite good at it! We do miss family, friends and food from the Midwest here we are. The safest place to be is in God's place, under His protection.
Okay, so now I know this works. Here we go. An online diary can be a scary thing. But here goes. As you may know I am the Youth Pastor at a church in Maine. I love the kids that I work with. My church is a good place. I believe that the people are following Christ and that they love Him. Still there are days I feel like they are missiong out on so much because of their strict fundamental beliefs. Still, I see God at work. Our church is discipleship driven. We do a pretty good job at growing Christians but evangelism has never been on the front burner. That may have something to do with the fundamentalist views of the leadership. Calvinism is truly believed. Sometimes in a hyper sense. But in spite of that we have seen a new salvation in the past two weeks in Youth Ministry. A kid I had been praying for came to know Christ at the Word of Life Superbowl. Superbowl in this sense has NOTHING to do with football but is an all night traveling lock-in. This was actually the first of my four Superbowls that I actually enjoyed. Anyway, I am excited that this kid got saved and am praying that God will help us grow him up in the faith.