Saturday, June 26, 2004

My Sister Hasn't Had Such A Good Week

Jasper Speaks:

Ok, so my sister Darla could sure use some prayers. The above picture really is pretty symbolic of her week! The interesting thing about the car pictured is, it was hit while parked at the garage where it was being serviced. By the owner's daughter. Who doesn't have insurance. Who is the granddaughter of the man my sister works for. When something happens to Darla, it usually has to happen with a little bit of flair!

Anyway, the garage is giving her grief about covering the work that has to be done now (even though it was obviously their fault). She is in a sticky situation with the culprit being the family of her boss.

She had already been praying for some real help in the vehicle situation. They can't afford a new car but need one desperately. Their three are all on their last legs. She, her husband and her son all have to get to work at very different times in mostly different areas, so it is really stressful at the moment.

Add into this the fact that Darla did not have the greatest doctor's appointment this week either. Her blood pressure is high and her doctor is not completely sure why. She has a heart defect and he thinks that the two could be linked. That is no fun.

Also, she is trying to prepare to be a leader on the youth mission trip which leaves on Saturday. If the problem is really with her heart (some tests should tell) she won't be able to go. That leaves her out in the cold from the trip and the trip down a much needed leader and driver.

So if you could, please pray for her. She does a lot of stuff. She works full-time and volunteers A LOT at her church with the youth and music ministries. She serves on several committees as well. I keep trying to convince her to slow down to no avail. So, your prayers would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
Useless Fact For June 26, 2004

The Facts Speak:
From the smallest microprocessor to the biggest mainframe, the average American depends on more than 264 computers per day.

Jasper Speaks:
Okay, so I have seen the Terminator like 15 times! Does this fact scare anyone else?

Friday, June 25, 2004

Useless Fact For June 25, 2004

The Facts Speak:

At one "feeding" a mosquito can absorb one and a half times his body weight in blood.

Jasper Speaks:

Yup. That is pretty disgusting! As some of you know, I am the Minister of Information for the community of Gewbertopia on the Youth Specialties Forums. This is a community of Youth Pastors who share our lives with each other. We have really become an online family over the past year. Anyway, one of my "duties" is to give out useless facts to keep us all knowledgeable (because you just don't know when you need to know something stupid to win something). So I have decided that I am going to try and post a daily useless fact here as well. It will give you who are frequent readers an opportunity to find out something new everyday as well.
I guess I chose this fact because Maine is full of mosquitoes and I have splattered a bunch lately who have gushed blood all over my hand. Okay, yes I know that is gross. So uh, I'll just let the fact speak for itself!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

TNT Tonight

Jasper Speaks:

Tonight went pretty well. I am still a bit overwhelmed at the amount of Junior High kids we have been having. They outnumbered the Senior Highers by nearly double tonight. Job security is nice!

Everything ran a little behind tonight. I just wasn't watching the clock very well. So we got started about ten minutes late. Games went about ten minutes over as well. So worship didn't start until about 7:20 (it usually starts at 7:05 or so).

Worship has been an issue for the past several weeks. Tonight was the best night we have had in about a month or so. The kids did well even though they were down a vocalist. I found myself actually having some decent time with God. HERE I AM TO WORSHIP was particularly powerful for me. I got a little lost in the song. It has been awhile since we have sung it and I had forgotten how worshipful a song it really is. We still have some kinks to work out but all in all it was a great time in worship through song tonight.

Ben Wilson, one of our college aged guys, led the Bible study in Senior High. Ben went to college at Spring Arbor College in Michigan last year as a Youth Ministry major. He and his wife Amber moved back to Maine in December. He still wants to pursue youth ministry. He knows that is not the easiest thing to do and stay in New England. Amber is pregnant but they say they will probably go back to Michigan in a year or so to finish up Ben's schooling. I hope they stick to that plan. I think that would be great. He has a lot of potential in youth ministry.

Tonight he gave a good devotion from Revelation chapter three. He even gave it a catchy title --- "Are You Hot?" --- which the kids loved. I must admit, it did this old Youth Pastor's heart good to see one of my former kids leading in such a great way. I talked to him afterwards about him doing an informal internship in the ministry in the fall. I would like to share speaking duties somewhat with him. I want to help him stay plugged in as much as I can so the call stays fresh within him. He and Amber are going on the Mission Trip with us and I am anxious for that to happen too!

Overall, tonight was the best TNT we have had in quite awhile. We will spend the month of July just hanging out and playing games. It ought to be pretty fun. It is hard to believe that yet another year is over. I will take time to reflect on that and blog about how I think we did later. Right now though, I will bask in the pleasure of a good night of ministry, without over analyzation, thank you very much!
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.
What Is Youth Ministry Really About?

Jasper Speaks:

I have asked myself that question so many times. Even several times in the last few days. There are some obvious answers. I know for me so much of why I am here today is that I have a call of God on my life to be here. I cannot achieve purpose without being in ministry. As I think about those days when I want to turn in my silly putty, smelly van and reasons to stay up all night, I simply cannot just walk away. So with that in mind I feel I need to figure out the answer to the question "what is Youth Ministry really about"?

1. It Is About Leading Teens To Christ.

This seems like a no brainer but I think sometimes we get caught up in the activities of ministry and neglect this one. I offer a lot of stuff for my kids but I question how much of it really leads them to Christ. Of course I am speaking of evangelism but do my thoughts, actions and ministry lead even teens who are saved back to the feet of Christ on a regular basis? Does my example show them that Christianity is about a relationship? Am I displaying Christ in such a way that a non-Christian student will be drawn to know what makes me different?

2. It Is About Creating A Safe Place For Students

One of the joys of ministry for me is being with students. I love to hang out with them and mentor them. I also love to offer a place where students can be together in a positive, safe environment. I think a crucial reason Youth Ministry exists is to bring students together and help them walk side by side in the battle. Nothing warms my heart more than to see two students holding each other accountable and helping one another through hard times. That is one of the joys and one of the most important reasons youth ministry exists.

3. It Is About Helping Students Mature In Their Faith

I love teens. I am not such a fan of pre-teens. Why? I think it is because teenagers are just that small bit more mature than pre-teens. They are just a little more "grown-up". I am not under the illusion that they never regress back to their more immature ways but they are closer to be a "real person" than a younger kid.

That being said I think that helping students mature in their faith is one of the seedbeds of youth ministry. Just as their physical and emotional life is growing, so must their spiritual life. It is the role of the youth leader to facilitate growing moments. I love the fact that God has put me in a situation where I can offer ways to make students "stretch". I love to see the light bulb go on over a kids head about spiritual issues. For me this happens so much on mission experiences. Students seem to grow and understand their faith as they serve. Of course in the area of spiritual growth we have to be leading by example as well. The spiritual stagnant will have a hard time leading growth.

4. It Is About Helping Students Find Their Place In The World

So often I find myself trying to de-stress my seniors. I try and tell them that unlike many adults they know, I don't expect them to know what they are going to do with their lives at 18. I expect them to be seeking out what God has for them and to take advantage of their youth and the opportunities that brings.

I do however, feel that it is the responsibility of the youth ministry to help kids as they try and find what their spiritual place is in the world. I believe in the six years a student spends in our youth ministry, they should constantly be confronted with why they are on planet Earth. What would God have them accomplish in their lifetime? I think as youth leaders we need to be constantly trying to offer opportunities that will help them answer this question. We need to encourage them to take steps of faith and look toward what God has in store for them. I think we need to encourage them to shut out the theory that they are the future of the church and embrace their role in the church of today.

5. It Is About Helping Students Live Out Their Commitment To Christ

Sometimes youth ministry is just about being a cheerleader. I think one of the most important aspects of student ministry is being a listening ear. How many times have I had students who are hurting or rejoicing sitting on my couch and anxiously sharing their life with me? As youth leaders we need to be committed to taking advantage of every opportunity to point students to God's Word for the answers in their lives. We need to start our responses consistently with the phrase, "what would God have you do in this situation'.We have to instill in them the idea that the relationship they have with Christ is a daily thing. Something they need to come back and visit on a regular basis. They need to be desiring more than daily --- need I suggest moment by moment --- communication with Jesus. We need to encourage that and model it as well.

So as I ask myself what is youth ministry really about I see faces and lives that have been touched and changed over my 14 years of service. It is these reasons that keep me from dropping it all and working at Wal-Mart. It is the faces of lives changed and the shadows of the lives still to come, that encourage me to continue on in light of difficult times. You see, youth ministry is also really about me. It is about God working in my life. It is about God Changing me and using me to advance the Kingdom. He uses me in spite of my inadequacies. He uses me in spite of my sin. He uses me even though I am not worthy at all. He uses me because youth ministry is really about being obedient to His call. In the end, for me, youth ministry is really about the deepening love between the creator of the world and an average guy named Jasper.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

What I Learned On My Weekend Vacation

Our Friend Jess!!!

Jasper Speaks:

There was more to our weekend in Rhode Island than just the wedding we attended. The photo above was taken at Smokey Bones in North Dartmouth, Mass where we had dinner with our friend from Maine who lives in Rhode Island, Jessica, our friend from Missouri who lives in Connecticut, Chad, our friends from Maine who live in Maryland, Colin and Pam, and our friends from Maine who still live here, Bob and Jen. WHEW! Anyway, that was a great night. Jessica is like the little sister I never had and we love her a lot! She is so funny and a great Christian woman who is seeking God's will. We are always refreshed when we can be with her!

Chad is one of Kendra's oldest friends. They grew up in the same church and went to the same school from kindergarten on. He is a very nice guy too. He moved to Conneticut last fall. He moved there for his work. He is single and I know it is hard to be away from everyone you know even if you are married. So it has been hard for him. We wish we could see him more often.

Colin and Pam were the Youth Pastors (volunteer) here before we came. They are funny and sweet and we love being around them. They did so much to make this ministry we inherited all that it is. They are huge cheerleaders for us!

Bob and Jen are our friends from church. Jen is the SP's daughter. They are our knockaround buddies. We are both DINK couples. DINK stands for Double Income No Kids. It is a "Bob phrase". So all that to say our dinner out with everyone was wonderful and refreshing! The whole weekend was a little weird for me because there were no teenagers I had to take care of!

But the point of this post is to talk about what God reminded me of during our trip. He has been talking to me about the importance of community lately. He began tugging at my heart about this during our weekend. It is fascinating to me that even after our trip is over, my quiet time all week has been dealing with community as well.

It all started on Friday night when we went to church with Jessica. It was the young adults meeting and it was so nice to see that she has made friends there. The Bible Study was on being transparent. It really talked a lot about the need we all have for accountability and honesty in our walk with Christ. This is something I am not very good at. Kendra will tell you that I don't share my feelings very often. I don't even tell her how I feel about things as often as I probably should. But when it comes to sharing with other Christians, I generally stink at it. My pride pushes through and I just don't do what I should.

There are a couple of reasons/excuses I have for why this is difficult but they always go back to pride at their foundation. The first is, I never want to be one of those people that are self-absorbed and talk your ear off about their problems. I have had many people like that in my life and I just want to be sure that I am not a burden. My pride wants me to be liked by everyone and no one really likes a whiner.

Next, is I don't want people to know my struggles. I know that at the core of this is that I don't want people to see me as weak. That is pretty stupid. I know that I am a weak, dirty sinner and I am covered by grace alone. I am okay with that. Still, for some reason I have a hard time telling others where my struggles are spiritually. It goes back to pride. I want to please everyone. I fear that I can't do that if I am vulnerable. Dumb I know, but it is how I feel.

So as I sat in this Bible study I was convicted of my own short comings in this area. Accountability is hard because I am a pastor. I have very few friends in Maine (like literally two) who do not go to our church. I find it hard to be transparent with someone who I am in authority over. I also feel like complete honesty can be compromised because you are going to be careful about certain things with someone with whom you attend church. Still, as I sat there, I was convicted I needed more than just the good people of Gewbertopia on the YS Forums to be my accountable friends.

Afterwards, when we got into the van to leave, Kendra and I began to talk about the Bible study. We were both convicted. It was also hard for us because this was the most (if not only) challenging Bible study we have attended in our four years in Maine. (Our issues with the lack of challenge in our church is an entire different blog discussion). I told Kendra that the message that was shared cut me to the quick. As we discussed it, I felt led to call my best friend from home, Jose, and tell him that I need him in this area of my life. Of course he wasn't home when I called but I left a message. The rest of the weekend the whole thing weighed on me. I knew I needed to fix this.

On Monday morning, while I was home alone on my day off Jose returned my call. After beating around the bush about how much I missed him, I finally got up the nerve to tell him what God had been telling me. Through the way that only God can work, I was amazed to hear that in his quiet time the past week, Jose had just written down that he longed for accountability. I was pretty much floored that God would tell us both the same thing at the same time. We discussed the issue of 1200 miles separating us, but we both feel strongly that we need to do this with each other. God will cover the mileage! I particularly need Jose because he is a straight shooter. At one point when we were discussing our prayer needs for this week, he called a spade a spade and when I said I was a jerk about something, he quickly (and lovingly) said, "No Jasper you weren't a jerk. You were a hypocrite." Ouch! But it was exactly what I need to hear.

The weekend was great. The time we got to share with people in Rhode Island reminded me of the importance of quality time with Christian friends. It was refreshing and so nice. The Bible study challenged me to change something in my life where I had not given my all to Christ. I am glad that God continues to reminds us of all we can be in Him. How great is it that God can take a simple weekend away and use it to move us closer to His will for us?

Posted by Hello

Jasper Speaks:

Kendra and I spent this past weekend in Rhode Island. Our friends Jason and Vicki got married. It was quite the affair! They went with a simple theme. The groomsmen wore beach shirts and linen pants as did the groom. I was one of the most dressed up men at the event in a polo and khakis.

The backdrop was incredible! They were married on Vicki's grandfather's estate on the ocean in Rhode Island. The houses all around were huge and the view was incredible. I told Kendra that we had better enjoy our time there because it may be the only time we are ever invited to somewhere that nice!

The wedding was supposed to start at 11AM. We arrived with several other friends at about 10:45AM. I overheard the mother of the bride say that the wedding would be delayed by a bit. I didn't really wonder why. This family is not always known for their promptness. Then we heard the reason. Vicki had not tried on her wedding dress. EVER! So at midnight the morning of the wedding, she decided she might want to see what she looked like in it. Yup, you guessed it. It didn't fit! BY THREE SIZES!!!

So the bride and bridesmaids were at the mall frantically trying to find a wedding dress at the last minute. Literally. We waited around with Vicki's brothers and their wives (all had been former youth group members and all had been married in the past year) and talked about how this would be a great story to tell in the future.

In the end, Vicki was beautiful! The dress they found was exactly right for the event. It was a beautiful, Christ-filled ceremony. They shared their first kiss ever when the Pastor said, "You may kiss the bride." One of her sisters-in law was giggling later about how she had caught the happy couple "making out" after the ceremony behind a bush where they thought no one was watching! Who could blame them?

We also got to see our friends Jessica and Chad while we were in Rhode Island. I will blog more about that part of our trip later. I am very happy for Jason and Vicki and pray that each day of their marriage would be the best day!
How Do YOU Measure Success?

Jasper Speaks:

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.
Best Movie Song

The AFI Speaks:

AFI List "Over the Rainbow"
By Joal Ryan

We needed a list to tell us "Over the Rainbow" is the greatest movie song of all time?

Probably not, but the detail-oriented types at the American Film Institute have spelled it out anyway, affixing Dorothy Gale's Kansas lament from the The Wizard of Oz to the top of its latest water-cooler-argument starter, "100 Years...100 Songs."

The tuneful list was revealed Tuesday in a three-hour CBS special hosted by disco-era musical god John Travolta, whose pipes, along with those of Olivia Newton-John, helped lift "Summer Nights" from Grease to the 70th spot.

The rest of the Top 10, meanwhile, was filled out with the usual iconic suspects: "As Time Goes By," from Casablanca; "Singin' in the Rain," from Singin' in the Rain; "Moon River," from Breakfast at Tiffany's; "White Christmas," from Holiday Inn; "Mrs. Robinson," from The Graduate; "When You Wish Upon a Star," from Pinocchio; "The Way We Were," from The Way We Were; "Stayin' Alive," from Saturday Night Fever; and "The Sound of Music," from, yes, The Sound of Music.

Click Here To See The Complete List Of 100 Songs

Jasper Speaks:

In another example of the fact that I have NO LIFE, I watched this show last night. For the most part, I sat alone and sang a long with a lot of the songs. I am a pop culture geek and so I was at least a bit interested in the program.

As is the case with most of these types of shows there were many times that I was like, "Huh? Why did that song make it?" I mean does it make sense that an obscure song like "I'm Easy" from the movie Nashville would be 18 slots higher than "Hakuna Matata"?

But the top five are all truly classics. I love "Moon River" and "As Time Goes By". I still am a bit perplexed as to why "Stayin' Alive" made the top ten but I have never really understood people's fascination with Saturday Night Fever anyway.

I think I do agree that "Over The Rainbow" is the best ever. What a great song. It almost wasn't in the movie because they thought it slowed down the pace. But it remained and now is considered the best song ever in a movie. Wow.

I guess it is good that I don't put these things together myself. I would probably be laughed out of Hollywood (which isn't such a bad thing) because my favorite soundtrack is "Sister Act 2". I would have put "Joyful, Joyful" on my list for sure. As well as "Down By The Riverside" from The Fighting Temptations. Neither movie was a blockbuster but those are soundtracks I love. (I also like the soundtrack to the movie Fame but I think it is more because I went to a Performing Arts High School than anything else).

All in all, Jasper only has good things to say about the AFI list. I could have done with a lot less Barbra Streisand on the list but realize that I have some issues there! It was pretty much a waste of a good Tuesday night but I enjoyed the walk through Movie Land quite a bit.

Jasper Speaks:

So I have been all alone in the office today. It is eerily quiet. But it has given me a chance to spend some time in a reflective mode. Introspection is something I like to do. Not in the dark, arthouse movie sort of way, but there are just times I want to sit and think about who I am and how far I have come. It helps me realize how far I still have to go.

I pulled out my journals form my old summer missionary days. I found myself fascinated today with the journal from my summer in Queens in 1993. The fact that I will have seventh graders enter the youth group this fall who were born that year is a bit frightening by the way. As I read through the thoughts of that young 23 year old, I was amazed. God really did teach me so much that summer. It was a roller coaster but I learned a lot.

One thing I learned was that God can make a missions experience much more about the change in you than the change you make in others. I think I have learned that on every trip I have ever taken but there were some moments in the summer of 1993 that really spoke to that.

It was during that summer that I first read The Hiding Place. As I turned to the page that chronicles that reading in my journal it started off by saying, "After today, I will never again be the same." That is a bold statement but one I think held true. There are parts of that entry where I am describing myself and my spiritual struggles and I don't even remember that person. God has done such a work in my life that it is amazing who I no longer am. He has helped me to put away my past and focus on the here and now and the future. I am not that frail twenty three year old anymore. The change didn't happen over night but it did happen. For that I am thankful.

Reading the journal also made me realize how much I love working with inner city kids. I miss that being here in rural Maine. It is interesting to see how God uses us in whatever setting he calls us to go. Still, I feel a sense of burden for kids who grew up like me. Kids who are poor and struggling living "real life" in the inner cities of our country. It makes me very eager for our trip to Raleigh in a few weeks.

I think it is good to have a day of retrospection. Everyone needs to take stock from time to time. Lately I have been feeling like God has not really done much in or through me but then I sit and read about the way I used to be and I am glad God loved me enough to help me change.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

TNT This Week

Jasper Speaks:

This week's TNT was alright. I think we are losing some steam as the year winds down. The youth ministry is the only group that meets all twelve months of the year in our church. So some of our momentum in the summer is sucked out because there is an overall feeling of lethargy in the congregation in late June and through July and August.

I missed what was going on during games this week. I was inside getting stuff together and they were outside. I am overwhelmed by the number of Junior High kids we have coming right now. There were double the number of Junior Highers as compared to Senior Highers this week. I could also name about 6-8 Junior High kids who weren't there. It was pretty amazing. It is a good thing. We have so many seniors leaving that replenishing them with new 7th graders in the fall will be good.

Worship continues to be a problem area. It just isn't clicking. I am hoping that this fall when Kendra gets the opportunity to be more involved that we will be able to bring it back to more quality. Still, it is so much better than it used to be and I am thankful that students want to be involved.

My message just blew chunks. I didn't prepare much and it was the worst message I have given all year. We talked about God as our Father but there was very little passion in it. Next week, Ben, one of our former youth who has just come on as a leader will speak to close out the year for us. I am glad I don't have to speak again until September. In July and August we do mainly fun activities. It gives our leaders a break and helps us all to recharge some.

Well I am continuing to pray that God will do mighty things in our midst on Thursdays. I am excited that so many students are going to Raleigh and I hope the work the Lord does there will renew our kids and make them embrace Thursday nights for all God has for them.