Posts Tagged ‘Free Methodist’

Flight Check…

When I was in High School, I was able to attend “NYC 99” with the Nazarene Church in Toronto, Canada. It was pretty awesome. There were humbling times where a young deaf girl taught me how to play “Simon Says”, & blessed times where I met the woman I would eventually marry (even gave her a rose, only to realize it was her way after we began dating in college!).

In 2003 I was able to join with the worship team of NYC 03 in Texas, to lead over 10,000 teens in worship with Bob Diehm & team. I was just beginning married life after college, and I remember how awesome it was to help lead so many young people into moments of worship and surrender.

Fast forward a few more years, over a decade of youth ministry in the Free Methodist FMYC2017_logo_cChurch and this week I’m flying to Colorado to meet with other FM leaders to plan our next national youth gathering (FMYC) later this July. Teens from all over the US will gather at CSU in Fort Collins, and participate in a short term community life of young worshipers.

I know it can be done wrong. Neuro-chemistry tells me that experiences during our time together will raise levels of dopamine & oxytocin to trigger feelings of addiction and relational bonding. That can be unhealthy, if we’re not pointing such experiences to the realities and Spirit of God.

But if we release all our preparation and direct our desires into the powerful use of the Kingdom – all the neuro-chemistry research could never endeavor to explain or comprehend the ways these moments can be used by God. To build friendships and a familial bond that stretches far beyond superficial topics our young people may stick to on a regular basis. To connect students with a God who wants not only to Love them – but wants to love their family/friends/neighborhood/enemies through them.

As I look at my own experience of having gone through a youth ministry, I’m reminded these things are not finding their “end” in the teens who attend. Our goal is not to build successful events for teens to attend and enjoy. Our “end goal” is seen decades later, as these moments have simply become milestones on a much larger journey of God’s children growing and serving God in their context. As they are transformed, to continue becoming those through whom transformational love of Jesus arrives and is shared/proclaimed.

May we become as relentless as our God’s Love, when we hope, pray, and work toward the changes that can come as we offer who we are to His mission of redemption for all humanity and creation…

 

Shell or Rock?

Moana was a fantastic movie for so many reasons. The chicken made us laugh. The grandma was one we all wish we had. The usual motif about “someone realizing there was something mystically special about themselves all along” – is something many of us hope to discover.

There are roots in there story with amazing truths, if we will notice.

There is a girl who is taught her entire life, that her value comes from her ability to maintain what has always happened. She is expected to make wise decisions, to rule well, and to navigate the difficulties of island life. That someday she will place her stone on the highest mountain, atop the stones of previous leaders, making her contribution the highest point on their island.  But within her stirs a discontent. A “holy” stirring that not only she, but her people, were created to do more than what they’d done yesterday.  That perhaps even, looking far back in their history, they might find stories of a completely different existence altogether.  They were not a people meant to thrive on how well they could perpetuate status quo. They were wired to thrive on creative discovery, and to craft stories of stepping out into the unknowns, in faith that something greater than themselves held their fate and future. That actually, their fate depended on complete change in what was being done. They were facing struggles no resources could be found to solve. The status quo way of maintaining routine was slowly losing its ability to provide life.

So she set out to discover what else could be done. Sacrificially, she launched a new initiative toward becoming vulnerable – not just for her own sake but for a people who were temporarily without any idea of what might happen next.  Collectively, they looked toward tomorrow with hesitancy, but hopeful faith for what could be. Enlight16

It turned out to be exactly what was needed. As she returned to share this new way of life she’d discovered, it was immediately embraced by the people as being their actual story. No longer were they island people, who valued being able to efficiently stay as they were. Connecting to their ancient roots, they were a people “on the move”. Entrusting themselves to something larger, they collectively were reidentified as New Creations.  There is a brief scene where we simply see a shell placed on a stack of rocks. No longer would success be measured by the highest point on an island that was ultimately no source of life.

From now on – they’d become a people who’s measurement for Life had been altogether transformed.

The wisdom here offers us a moment to contemplate as leaders and servants in the Kindgom of God. Are we willing to let go of our chance to place a stone, if it enables others to actually be transformed toward a New Life altogether? Can we trust God to guide us as we launch out together toward a New Land?

There is, after all, a world out there already placing stones upon stones – waiting for followers of Jesus to show them a better way…

 

“Uber” Exciting

This past week, ride-sharing app “Uber” opened up in our city, only to be followed the next day by “Lyft” as well.  Decatur, IL was finally getting “on the map” in a way that seemed to echo finally being included in “Craigslist” a few years before.  Certainly we’re no Chicago, but we are a greater-area population of about 85,000 – and potential for growth as we were also recently identified as #3 most affordable housing market in the WORLD.

uber-redesign-russellwarwickI’m a confessed extrovert, and love meeting new people.  So it wasn’t surprising to my wife when I joked about signing up as an Uber driver, not as a money-making venture, but for fun.  Even after quickly moving through the process, snapping pictures of my documents like insurance and registration, and getting notified I was approved – I didn’t think I’d find myself driving anytime soon.  Although as a pastor there was another layer of appeal.

Fridays are my “day off”, and the rest of my family was occupied at our homeschool co-op.  My wife told me to take the morning to enjoy.  As I sat at Panera, reading the latest edition of Harpers, I flicked the “Online” toggle on my Uber-Driver App, and officially became available.  I figured, it would be fun to give a ride or two, in the midst of my morning coffee.  Ten minutes later, it was obvious Decatur didn’t need many Uber drivers around 9am on a Friday.  Almost an hour in, I realized it wouldn’t be so bad to just spend the morning reading with coffee.

Then it happened.  I don’t even remember much about what the alert looked like. All I could think of was “There might be several Uber drivers getting this same notification, I’d better accept it quickly!”  Boom.  I accepted.  Then I looked at the address.  It wasn’t far, so I loaded up, made sure the radio wasn’t blaring princess music, and began to follow the built-in navigation system within the Uber app.

As I eased my family mini-van into the driveway of a nice quiet neighborhood, a smiling middle-aged man and his wife emerged with two suit-cases.  I quickly asked his name to confirm, though it seemed pretty obvious he was definitely my fare.  I helped load his luggage into my trunk, and opened the door for both he and his wife.  As I started the van, I slid the “Start” button on the Uber app, and asked him where they were headed this morning.  He smiled and said the airport, which I’d kinda anticipated from the luggage.  There was only one issue:

The airport he was talking about was 1.5 hours away in Peoria, IL.

For a brief second, I thought he was joking.  I think he caught my surprise, because he clarified, “You saw that when you agreed, right?”  I looked at my clock, and saw I had just enough time to get there and back before the family came home for lunch.  Why not?  I was honest, however.  Laughing, I confessed I’d not seen it, but it was no problem – let’s go!

He and his wife were very kind, and were in good spirits as they were heading out of town on vacation.  Their flights had been changed last minute, and they decided to try Uber since it had proved useful in previous times of transportation need when they’d visited larger cities.  They even tipped well, although Uber does not require this habit.

Altogether, I enjoyed my coffee and met some new people whom I was able to offer God’s blessings to for their journey ahead, as I dropped them off for their flights.  They’d paid Uber about $75, and I received about $55 of that (plus their gracious tip!).  Probably the most I’ll ever cash in with Uber, since I was just doing it for fun.  I was thankful that their few hours of need happened during my few hours of availability.

I also learned an important lesson: Before you agree to help someone get somewhere, make sure you know where they want to go.  (That’s probably a deep profound truth, eh?)  Next time I’ll make sure I check the request fully, before accepting.  I suppose I could be glad they weren’t heading to an airport in Chicago, or Canada…? lol

Thanks, Uber.  That was fun.  Maybe we’ll do it again someday.

lake.

In honor of Governor Bond Lake, where I’ll be spending this weekend for a Senior High Labor Day Retreat, an excerpt from one of my favorite books:

“The shore is irregular enough not to be monotonous.  I have in my minds’ eye the western indented with deep bays, the bolder northern, and the beautifully scolloped southern shore, where successive capes overlap each other and suggest unexplored coves between.  The forest has never so good a setting, nor is so distinctly beautiful, as when seen from the middle of a small lake amid hills which rise from the water’s edge; for the water in which it is reflected not only makes the best foreground in such a case, but, with its winding shore, the most natural and agreeable boundary to it…IMGP0704

…A lake is the landscapes most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.  The fluviatile trees next the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows.

Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond, in a calm September afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite shore line indistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, “the glassy surface of a lake.”  When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the distant pine woods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from another.  You would think that you could walk dry under it to the opposite hills, and that the swallows that skim over might perch on it.  Indeed, they sometimes dive below the line, as it were by mistake, and are undeceived.  As you look over the pond westward you are obliged to employ both your hands to defend your eyes against the reflected as well as the true sun, for they are equally bright; and if, between the two, you survey its surface critically, it is literally as smooth as glass, except where the skater insects, at equal intervals scattered over its whole extent, by their motions in the sun produce the finest imaginable sparkle on it, or, perchance, a duck plumes itself, or, as I have said, a swallow skims so low as to touch it.  It may be that in the distance a fish describes an arc of three or four feet in the air, and there is one bright flash where it emerges, and another where it strikes the water; sometimes the whole silvery arc is revealed; or here and there, perhaps, is a thistle-down floating on its surface, which the fishes dart at and so dimple it again.  It is like molten glass cooled but not congealed, and the few motes in it are pure and beautiful like imperfections in glass.  You may often detect a yet smoother and darker water, separated from the rest as if by invisible cobweb, boom of the water nymphs, resting on it.  From a hilltop you can see a fish leap in almost any part; for not a pickerel or shiner picks an insect from this smooth surface but it manifestly disturbs the equilibrium of the whole lake.  It is wonderful with what elaborateness this simple fact is advertised – this piscine murder will out, – and from my distant perch I distinguish the circling undulations when they are half a dozen rods in diameter.  You can even detect a water-bug ceaselessly progressing over the smooth surface a quarter of a mile off, for they furrow the water slightly, making a conspicuous ripple bounded by two diverging lines, but the skaters glide over it without rippling it perceptibly.  When the surface is considerably agitated there are no skaters nor water-bugs on it, but apparently, in calm days, they leave their havens and adventurously glide forth from the shore by short impulses till they completely cover it.  It is a soothing employment, on one of those fine days in the fall when the warmth of the sun is fully appreciated, to sit on a stump on such a height as this, overlooking the pond, and study the dimpling circles which are incessantly inscribed on its otherwise invisible surface amid the reflected skies and trees.  Over this great expanse there is no disturbance but it is thus at once gently smoothed away and assuaged, as, when a vase of water is jarred, the trembling circles seek the shore and all is smooth again.  Not a fish can leap or an insect fall on the pond but it is thus reported in circling dimples, in lines of beauty, as it were the constant welling up of its fountain, the gentle pulsing of its life, the heaving of its breast.  The thrills of joy and thrills of pain are undistinguishable.  How peaceful the phenomena of the lake!  Again the works of man shine as in the spring.  Ay; every leaf and twig and stone and cobweb sparkles now at mid-afternoon as when covered with dew in a spring morning.  Every motion of an oar or an insect produces a flash of light; and if an oar falls, how sweet the echo!” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 4

Temptations_of_Christ_(San_Marco)If we’re willing to reject the temptations of Satan, along with Jesus and by the power His Spirit brings through us, big things can happen. All over the world, March 9th was acknowledged as “FREEDOM SUNDAY”. God’s people are being broken for the sake of the poor and lonely, the imprisoned, the trafficked, and the powerless. You see, when humanity gives into the temptations Satan has offered Jesus here…this is what happens. Other people become consumed. Walked on. Imprisoned as objects. Treated like animals.

When we believe that inanimate objects are more important than living faithfully – people (our brothers and sisters) become sacrificed on the altar of low prices. Most of the products you and I use on a daily basis were made from materials and minerals taken from countries where laborers are paid next to nothing – if they’re even paid at all. Now I’m not gonna call us to boycott a specific store, give up clothes, and stop using cell phones. But I am going to ask you – when’s the last time you prayed for those communities? When’s the last time you treated someone the world called “insignificant” with the significance Jesus gives them by dying on their behalf?

Just one of the many reasons our family is in the midst of an adoption process, is to give a voice to the voiceless. To tell a story about a place and a people who are being taken advantage of by the world, and call God’s people to pray. Because as we see in the Lords’ Prayer – how we pray, leads us to how we live.

And that’s only the first temptation. How about the second? When we let go of all that God’s done, and all that God will do in the future – living only according to what it seems like God is doing right now in this moment – it can lead us to wrong thinking. It can make us lose hope, and forget all that God has done. It can seem incredibly hopeless for the 30 Million slaves living in our world today, and those of us who are enslaved by behaviors or sins that we need God to provide freedom from. Instead, we remember that God has provided freedom, and will provide complete freedom and healing someday for every single of the 30 million. Until then…we lift them in prayer, and support organizations and movements that embrace bringing freedom and release from bondage, wherever and however it exists. Even something as simple as sponsoring a child through ICCM can save a child from becoming a slave tomorrow. How is your life connected to Christ bringing freedom in our world?

And finally, the third temptation. The temptation to see statistics like “30 Million”, or Bible verses like “For all have sinned and fall short”, and throw our hands up saying, “We give up.” This is giving value, and bowing to something that does NOT deserve our worship. We believe in a God who is Lord over ALL creation. A God who has provided release from sin and bondage both NOW and FOREVER. We will not worship the forces of evil that pretend to be in control, but we will boldly declare by our life and resources today, GO AWAY SATAN. You have no right to declare ANYTHING over my life. God has already declared powerful words of Love, Grace, Release from Sin, and New Creation, and those are the words that will reign.

And in response, the devil will leave…and we will find ourselves in the midst of those serving God together. The whole world will be transformed as we go out into creation as those who have been set free in Christ. Will you allow yourself to be “of freedom”?  Will you respond as Jesus has, decide even now how you will live before temptation even comes to you?

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