Thursday, December 16, 2004

Last Night To Preach To The Kids

Jasper Speaks:

Because of the Youth Group tradition of going carolling, this was my last TNT. It was weird. During worship I came up with my latest fear. I don't know how to be a regular church member. My dad is a pastor and I went straight from High School to my first part-time Youth Pastor position. So I have been in ministry all my 35 years. I am not sure I even know what to do if I am not on staff. I am really a little freaked out by the prospect. It is an odd fear I will give you but it is there nonetheless.

As our worship band was leading worship I really could sense the Spirit speaking to me. We sang Blessed Be Your Name and it was a hard song to get through. I mean I am standing there singing that no matter how bad my life gets, I am going to praise God. I sang, "You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be Your name". Those are hard words for me right now. I felt convicted. If I am singing it, I better be believing it. I am not quite there yet. I pray that God will help me to be able to sing that song truthfully.

I had been doing Doug Field's series BEYOND THE YEARBOOK with the kids. I had been distracted with other work all day today and was pretty thankful that the sermon in a box was waiting for me. I put the sermon together adding my own illustrations and was all ready to go. Then during worship it hit me. This was going to be the last time I will speak to the Senior Highers from God's Word as their Youth Pastor. I started to panic a bit. Do I change what I was speaking about and come up with impromptu last words? Do I just continue the series as if nothing is different?

The first few moments of my message were awkward as the inner arguing continued. Finally, I told myself that trying to draw out the fact that this was my last message was a bit much to fill in 30 minutes. So, I went with the prepared message. Actually, that message was pretty fitting. We talked about God changing us so He can use us. Pretty deep stuff. After I finished the message. I stopped and started talking to the students before I prayed to end the service. I told them that if there were only two things I could share with them at my last time of speaking from God's Word, it would be first, love God with all you have. I read the Great Commandment and encouraged them to give God their all. I told them not to let anyone tell them that it is more important to love God with your mind than with your heart or with you strength than with your soul. They are all in there so Jesus must have thought they all needed our equal time.

Next, I shared with them my favorite verse. Many of them could have recited it with me I use it so often. "For I know the plans I have for you", declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future". We talked about trusting God's plan and believing He has great plans for us as well. It was hard to keep it together as with each passing word the lump in my throat grew bigger.

After the service I stood for about ten minutes and just held kids as they cried. It was not the easiest thing I have ever done. We still have a week left together and I will see most of them on Sunday and next Thursday. It is just so hard to say goodbye. In many ways I am still in denial that this is happening. It just doesn't seem real yet. I realize when it finally is real to me, there is going to be a major meltdown. I am not looking forward to that at all.

Tonight was the first of several hard days. More are coming. I am praying that God will provide the strength to withstand the heartbreak still yet to come.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

An Update

Jasper Speaks:

So, in many ways we are at a same ole same ole point. Not much going on in our lives. We are in a holding pattern. I am FINALLY starting to get calls from employers. Nothing firm has come yet but I am getting bites. I just really regret not taking the online Master's course I had enrolled in. Although I don't know how I would have paid for it. If I had taken it my teacher certification would be up to snuff and finding a job wouldn't be quite such a chore.

The Elders' meeting last night went well. Not only was it my last one (HOORAY!!!) but it was a very nice easy one. Also, I got to really speak a lot to the issue of hiring the next YP and I felt as though the Elders' valued and listening to my opinion. They voted to establish a search committee which is great because the last two staff vacancies did not have a committee. There were men in the church the Elders' thought should have first chance at the positions and they ended up being the ones they went with. By establishing a search committee at least the chance is there that they will bring someone in from the outside who actually will have ideas to bring to the table.

Tonight's Guys' Small Group was weird. We have had so many incredible studies this fall but tonight's just fell flat. I read the Bible Study beforehand and thought it was a little lame but it really went nowhere. That was a little frustrating for me. We only have one more week together and I was hoping that every week would be as good as they had been going.

So, there is where we are today. Things are still a roller coaster. I have moments of being fine with leaving and moments of near overwhelming grief. I am sure it will only get worse before it gets better. Still, I am certain we are doing the right thing. I just wish I understood it more.

Monday, December 13, 2004

How Long Oh, Lord

Jasper Speaks:

So, I have some advice for those of you who are in the process of leaving your current ministries. This is especially for those of you walking a long the path of resignation without another ministry job with me. Do not go on a road trip with a group of your favorite students two weekends before you are going to leave!

What an incredible weekend I had. I stayed up until 4:30 in the morning talking heart to heart with three great guys. It was so great to share our hearts together. The laughter, the seriousness, the advice handed out, man it is why I love being a Youth Pastor.

Therein lies the rub. I am grieving the death of my career. I am grieving the passing of God allowing me to be employed in my passion. The whole point of our road trip to Rhode Island this weekend was to go and see
Lost and Found in concert. This is a group I am absolutely certain my kids would have NEVER heard of if it hadn't been for me. It was an amazing concert. We had a wicked good time. Then on the drive home we were listening to a Lost and Found CD and my kids favorite song, Lions, came on and they started singing at the top of their lungs. We cranked the music up and they sang louder and I sat in the driver's seat and started convulsing in choppy sobs. Thankful for the darkness and for the loud music as it kept anyone but Kendra from noticing that I was completely losing it. I cried and cried hard. I have so much love for these kids and for youth ministry in particular and last night somewhere along I-95, I realized that it is all really coming to an end. The result? A 35 year old man crying like a 4 year old girl. Not pretty.

Then tonight the crying came again as my sister called me on her cell phone from the Steven Curtis Chapman/Casting Crowns concert and held the phone up as they sang, "The Voice Of Truth". So as I am missing my sister, missing the concert and realizing that I am no longer a youth pastor, I became overwhelmed again and ended up locked in the bathroom, sobbing again. Man, I am such a girl.

Well that is all the great news on the Jasper front. Please pray that I will be better not bitter.