Friday, August 28, 2009

coldwater video

video
This is the video we'll be showing Sunday to go along with talking about coldwater. The trip was great, this song became sort of an unofficial theme song, and if you missed it you missed out! But since life is a mission, there's still time so get to work...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

+ 1 for the vegetarians

You can call me a pansy if you want to, but the whole blood and guts thing has never been my favorite part of guy-hood. Don't get me wrong, I love a good action movie with a lot of explosions, etc. But it's the real life, 3-dimensional, all 5 senses gore that I'm not fond of! It's one thing to see it on a screen, but quite another to touch and hear its squishiness and smell the rancid rot.

I have tons of hunting and fishing relatives and the part of those sports that I never liked was the 'cleaning'/'field dressing' (or 'gutting' as we more often called it). While I was in college I went deer hunting - this was actually the only time I've been deer hunting as a hunter instead of the tag-a-long kid that can't keep quiet (I was good at that role!). I gutted my own deer, but I didn't like it. Actually, my shot was "less than immediately lethal" so I even had to cut Bambi's throat before slicing her open and 'cleaning' her out. I did it - but I didn't like it.

All that pales in comparison to the putrid pile of flesh I had to deal with today. It may have been just a temporary failure (I hope) but this morning we discovered that our large freezer was no longer freezing its contents. (What am I supposed to call a freezer that doesn't freeze things?!) We're not sure how long the thaw had been happening, but there was a 2 inch pool of blood underneath about 90 pounds of rotting bovine. Having cleaned out the meat, I have never been closer to becoming a vegetarian than I am right now. (I am seriously thanking God and the city of Scottsbluff-Gering that tomorrow is trash day!) I can't even describe how disgusting this was for me at every level of my being - tactile, visual, financial, olfactorial (just made up that word I think, but I like it), aural - everything in me wanted to do whatever it could that is closest to vomiting.

As I was scooping up rotting meat and being as totally grossed out as I have ever been, God reminded me of Isaiah, where it's written that "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;" Now, I have some shop rags in my garage that are covered with oil and dirt and auto-grime. That's not the kind of filth He's talking about. A less G-rated rendering of this phrase could be 'bloody tampon'. Gross. (God is graphic!) I've always understood the way our sin sickens our Holy God - but this wasn't the sin of His people, it was the 'righteous acts' they did alongside their sin, thinking they could cover it up or outweigh their guilt with their good. It makes God want to wretch.

I'm strongly reminded today that nothing I can do on my own can clean out the rot that I've allowed in my life. Nothing that I can do to make you or anybody else admire/approve/respect me will allow God to ignore the rancid stench of sin in my life. It is only by His mercy that I can present myself to Him as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him - only by His grace that I can enter into His presence - and only by the blood (ironically) of Jesus that I can be freed from continually having to breathe the smell of death.

It's easy to deal with rotting meat - you throw it out! Maybe there's something rotting in our lives that we need to throw out, too - ask God to take you deep into your heart and show you what needs taken to the curb. It's trash day - take it out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Miles for the Mission

I am putting together a team of runners who will be raising money for our student ministries over the month of September. Each runner will take pledges for a certain amount per mile they will run during the month. (For example, if you pledge $3.00 per mile that I run, and I run 100 miles, your total contribution would be $300 - thank you for being so generous!) At the end of the month, we'll collect the donations to fund upcoming student ministry initiatives that will help us in our mission to "reveal God to students."

If you want to be one of my runners, let me know and I'll get you a form to start tracking your pledges. If you'd like to sponsor me, let me know what amount I should put down for your pledge. (I'm currently doing a 100 miles in 30 days challenge that will go into the first part of Sept., so I expect to be somewhere around 100 miles, just to give you an estimate.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sustainable?

This summer schedule has killed my reading. Once camp season hit, I basically only read a chapter here and there. I did, however, manage to finish a literary youth ministry trifecta:

Youth Ministry 3.0 from Mark Oestreicher, Sustainable Youth Ministry from Mark Devries, and Simple Student Ministry from Eric Geiger and Jeff Borton. Each of the three had their merits, but the one I'd most recommend is Sustainable Youth Ministry. It addresses the church as much as the youth leader - every church looking to hire a new youth minister should require the search team to read this book before even taking resumes.

DeVries tackles a lot of the church systems issues that can cripple youth ministry. He doesn't just bash the adult oriented church, however, these are issues that can be resolved to enhance the ministry of the whole church.

SYM also addresses the long-term nature of youth ministry. Many churches focus on the short-term when thinking about youth ministry. We only have them for a few years, right? But healthy youth ministry doesn't really stop when a student graduates, and the things we do that may bring short-term "success" may do little to develop long term disciples. Devries offers helpful wisdom to churches who want to do more than graduate a bunch of shiny, happy faces into a life they are not equipped to handle. He offers help to those churches and youth workers that want to build environments in which young disciples can thrive. This is one that I will definitely return to.

*DeVries also has an organization called Youth Ministry Architects that does consulting to help churches build youth ministries that are sustainable.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Running Discipleship

A few months ago, I posted a comment regarding running and age and marathons and determination (which prompted some finely crafted 'encouragement' from my brother). I'm not there yet, but I did take up a lesser challenge this month: 100 miles in 30 days. It seems like a lot, but it's only about 3 miles a day - this forces me to run consistently.

My 30 days started last week and I'm at about 15 miles right now. That's just a little behind schedule, but I did get in a good 5 mile run Saturday and felt pretty good. 2 and 3 mile runs are much less of a struggle than they were a few months ago. (Except last night's run - the first mile was a battle to keep supper where supper is supposed to be!)

The thing with this 30 day challenge is that it sort of artificially imposes a demand for some kind of running activity on a regular basis. I don't HAVE to run, but if I want to meet the goal I will. I wonder if a healthy relationship with God thrives similarly. We don't have to 'watch and pray' - but if we desire God like He desires us, we will.
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Incidentally, I'm thinking about getting a group together that would run through the month of Sept. to raise money to fund some youth ministry initiatives here. (Basically, people will be asked to pledge some amount of money for each mile we run during the month.) If you'd be interested in running in the group (and collecting pledges for your miles) let me know right away.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Satan Lies series promo

Sweet trailer for Perry Noble's next sermon series, dealing with Satan's lies. Willie just preached a couple weeks here at WestWay about the reality of Satan, so this seems like some timely exploration of the lies he uses. You can follow the series at NewSpring's site. They post the video on Tuesdays, and also stream the service on Sunday evenings. The series starts this week.

Promo: "5 Lies of the devil" from NewSpring Production on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Life's a Trip

I like it when something significant comes out of my mouth without my first formulating the thought into words. My thought editing process can distill my intended message so much that it's castrated, robbed of any potency the message may have had. I don't want to be a jerk about things, but sometimes, I try too hard to say things politely (thanks, mom!).

During our staff meeting today, I had one of those moments where things came out right. I was talking about the way we went around during the coldwater mission, looking for some way to serve and open to just about anything. Why don't we do that normally? Why don't we go to our jobs and schools and homes and hangouts... looking for any possible way to be of service?

Willie commented on how we don't have that mindset because we get too busy 'at home'... too caught up in our own lives. We can set all that aside for a week long "mission trip" but often fail to do so in our normal day to day living.

Before I knew what was coming out of my mouth, I heard myself saying "But, my whole life is supposed to be a mission trip!" (or something close to that) We have, too often, bought into a screwed up idea of 'home'. If you are in Christ, YOU ARE NOT HOME! (unless you've already died and Heaven has some sweet wi-fi hot spots, that for some reason you're using to check this blog) You're not supposed to be 'too busy' to notice the needs of the people you share air with. You're not supposed to be so wrapped up in your own life that you don't see the dead people walking all around you. You're supposed to be on a 'mission trip' - seeking out those who are merely 'breathing to death' and taking them to Jesus to be resuscitated!

Stop complaining about your job and how you don't make enough money - go there to make disciples, instead! Quit whining about having to go back to school and make the most of that opportunity to connect with people that don't know Jesus and show them they matter to Him! Stop moaning and groaning about how boring church is and realize YOU ARE THE CHURCH... so don't be boring!
[My filter is telling me to tone down that last paragraph, but honestly...]

I see a lot of people right now who are diving into the 'mission life' mentality. It's exciting to see so many friends taking seriously the example of Jesus as He picked up a towel and started washing feet. Today, we are picking up garbage and sandpaper, paintbrushes and shovels, Bibles and moving carts. We are watching for places to paint and people to love - begging God to show us how and whom we can help next. We are looking for ways to let people see the Kingdom that is unseen - because that is our home. HE IS OUR HOME! We're learning that our lives are a mission trip - His mission trip into His creation to reveal His Kingdom and win back the hearts of His people...

Hope wherever you are, you join the trip...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

coldwater coincidence???

I get really skeptical when someone starts talking about secret codes in the Bible and the significance of numbers here and there, etc. I'm not the kind of person that 'looks for signs' all the time. But there were a number of things that we came across in the course of coldwater that some may call 'coincidence' and some may call God at work verifying what He was doing... Here's a list, but I'll leave it up to you to decide: God or coincidence?

- Biblical numbers (12 team members on Monday/7 for the week)
- We drew 144 miles the first day. At mile 144, we found Grant, NE - which happens to have a sign next to the railroad that simply says "GRANT 144".
- We drew 257 miles on Wednesday, which led us to Fairmont, where there is a mile marker 257.
- One team member stated before leaving that He wanted to see a day where God just provided everything... How 'bout free tent space and 3 free meals!
- Meeting a kid at the Grant pool who used to live in Scottsbluff.
- Landing in a town where Greg had worked (actually after spending the week traveling, this may just be a product of Greg working everywhere!)
- Finding an "Andrews" grave marker as we turned around in a little cemetery (good reminder - we'll all be there someday!)
- New Life's church sign echoing my earlier message to the students: "Listen for God to speak to you." (Hope you guys finish what's being started there Vince...)
- Andrew throwing up dog biscuit at the gas station (Ok, it probably wasn't a coincidence or God working, but it's just so fun to mention!)

I'm sure there were more that I'm not thinking of right now. Help me out guys, what did I miss? (Click on 'comment' and add your thoughts..)

coldwater improvements

Thinking of a few things that could be better next time we do coldwater...

- Shorter distance options later in the week - or staying in one town the whole time.
- Learning how to know when to stop working when you're working on a project that has no (or an unreachable) end...
- We lost a little focus Wednesday - maybe due to travel/fatigue, but needed to do something to keep focused.
- Could have done a better job with a more regular, scheduled devotion/journaling time. (Though we did make good use of a lot of 'teachable moments' I think.)
- Wish we could have traveled in one vehicle.
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Those of you who went: use the comments section and tell me what you think could be better next time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

coldwater journal entry

Since I wasn't able to post updates here too often last week, I thought I'd share some thoughts about the mission trip to start this week. I'll start with a modified journal entry from Tuesday that sums up the first days of our trip.
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It's been a great trip so far. We started off Monday morning spinning Southeast and drawing 144. We headed out through Bridgeport and had a tire blow out near Lake McConaughy. Only took 12 minutes to change - not NASCAR, but pretty good! We stopped in Ogallala and got a new tire and went and had lunch in Carrie's (my sister-in-law) yard. Got back onto the road and finished the driving portion of the day in Grant, NE
(mile 144 was right at the entrance to the golf course on the edge of town).

We drove around for a couple minutes and stopped at a park and divided into 3 groups to cover the town. (We prayer walked the town looking for some ways to serve.) The population of Grant is about 1200 or so, so we can walk the whole town. Two of the groups noticed the building of New Life Fellowship Church. I went inside and poked around a bit, but didn't find anyone there. We were attracted by the sign that asked? "Are you listening for God to speak to you?"
[As a rule, I hate church signs with their cute little sayings that no one outside the initiated really get, but this one was great.] Kim's group was near the same church building later and met the pastor (Vince) who knew of someone in the historical society (Brenda) that might need some help.

They are restoring a house to be a museum - so we ended up scraping wallpaper for them. I hate scraping wallpaper. (The house was a lot like the parsonage we lived in when we first started in ministry. It, too was covered with wallpaper. I hate scraping wallpaper so much that I just painted over it there!) I am just too much of a perfectionist to feel like I'm making any progress. My perfectionism can cripple me, but it can also help me do things well - I may have been moving slowly, but my section was CLEAN.

It was awesome to see Brenda (from the historical society) and Vince's reactions. Vince and his wife made us dinner and are making plans to help with the project. Brenda has been grateful for the help and also the attention that's been drawn to the museum's need for help (she bought us lunch the next day). The paper came to take some pictures and word spread around town.

We finished up two rooms, then visited the pool Tuesday afternoon. After cleaning up, we went back to the gas station for supper (yes, I said "gas station for supper") then went around town and took a few pictures and hung out at a local youth center. It was a pretty cool place and really makes me wonder what kind of response and impact we could have at WestWay with that type of approach to youth ministry...
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In defense of his prior actions, Andrew gave us the quote of the week Tuesday night: "I only threw up because I ate a dog biscuit." Security camera video of "the incident" was simply incredible! You haven't lived until you've seen a kid toss his dog biscuit via closed circuit video... Thank you In and Out night shift!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Coldwater Wednesday

Today was a long one. We got up and went into the gas station for breakfast (which you can only do right in small town America!) and, after we'd eaten, went out to the parking lot to spin a direction and draw some mileage. It was feast or famine in the mileage department - lots of high numbers and 2 that would have had us staying in Grant. 257 was the number that Smashley drew, so we went back and packed up the tents and everything and headed East. With several stops and a little indecision about where exactly to stop, we got to Fairmont, NE late in the afternoon. Mile 257 from where we left the campground this morning was just at the edge of town, and there is a mile marker 257 along the highway in town as well. I also noticed a ton of gas stations where gas was $2.57. I hope someone finds some significance in that number because it made for a long day!

We didn't take the most direct route today, thinking the roads would be better. The roads were ok, but it was all hills. The truck pulling the camper was getting pretty hot pulling all the weight. By about 150 miles, everyone was saying we should just go back to Grant. It was fun getting to know a few people there and making connections... It's amazing the way a little dog biscuit vomit at the gas station can draw people together! (Ask me later - short version is that the quote of the week was Andrew, defensively: "I only puked because I ate a dog biscuit!")

While the 257's everywhere may have seemed confirmative, our initial foray into Fairmont was less reassuring. We saw very few people around town and not much movement. We stopped and I talked to a lady who was scraping and powerwashing paint off a house, but she was about to stop for the day and wouldn't be back tomorrow, so she said she couldn't really use our help. She did give me the name of the director of the senior center in town and pointed out her house. She said she didn't know anyone who could use any help either, after listening politely to my explanation. There was a house with trim that was half painted, so Andrew went to the porch to see if we could help them finish, but there was no answer. Despite the lack of success finding something we could help with, we prayerfully pulled into the nursing home I'd noticed on our drive through town. Micah and I talked to a nice guy inside who gave us the name of the activities director. He said if we could come in the morning she could get us in touch with the residents and have some visiting and stuff for us to do. (Either that or he was thinking he'd pawn off these wackos on the day shift!)

Finding nowhere to stay in Fairmont, we drove North a little bit and are staying in York - in beds - with hot showers. Everyone's a little worn from the day and getting on each other's nerves a little bit, but a little pool time seems to have mellowed things in time for bed. And speaking of bed, there's a stack of pillows calling me...
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It was a funny dynamic this morning, drawing a distance to see where we'd be going. No one really wanted to leave Grant, but we felt like we should give God the chance to move us if he wanted to. He did (unless you want to just say it was random chance). No one really pouted, but there definitely was kind of that "Aww, man..." disappointment. Good to see the willingness to do what God wanted even if it wasn't what we might have chosen to do on our own. I pray that the students would always have the attitude that they'll do what He wants.

Coldwater Update

Hi. Sorry for the lack of prior updates. Wi-fi wasn't to be found by my laptop and Verizon and Blogger apparently don't speak the same language! (The last update was sent to my blog via my phone.)

The trip has gone really well. Grant was a nice little town and we stayed busy. I'll post more later, but right now I'm in the McCook library while the group is making sandwiches in the park across the street (which has the most awesome playset I've ever had the pleasure of climbing over!). We're on our way East, with about 160 miles to go today - we decided last night to draw again this morning and ended up with 257 miles and East-southeast. I'll let you know where we end up via twitter updates (which appear on the left bar of this screen - or you can follow @6drews on twitter, itself). Just for the record, we all liked Grant - as evidence by the zero, and 1/2 distances that we put in the cup (I had the students write down a number and stick it in a cup for today's distance) - we'll miss you Grant...

Time to hit the road. Keep praying for safe travel, and also for a student who's having a hard time back home right now, and for Randy and Tessa and their family (who were not able to make it to join us today because of a death in the family). Thanks.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Last minute thoughts before coldwater

Some quick, parting thoughts before I go...

-I hate packing.

-What kind of rational human being packs up for a week long youth ministry road trip without any idea where he'll be going? (If you just read that and thought "rational people don't go on youth ministry trips of any kind", you should stop seeing this young generation as trouble and get to know them - they will amaze you!)

-What kind of parents let their kids take a week long road trip without any idea where they'll be going? (Thank you parents for being awesome, God seeking individuals, for praying your kids will be the same, and for trusting me with them for this week!)

-I forgot towels. (I always forget towels!)

-I don't know why we don't have video monitors and couches in the lobby yet.

-Glad I remembered towels before we left.

-I hope it doesn't rain and soak the tents on the first day out!

-Praying for God to use this time to strengthen His Kingdom - within our group and within the communities we visit and homes we work in.

-I hate cold showers.

-Cash for clunkers is a stupid name for a stupid program... and I wish I had ten thousand dollars sitting around so I could replace my 4runner with a brand new Avenger without having car payments again - thanks to Chrysler's doubling of the gov money. Does that make me a bad person?

-I may be certifiably insane.... Dad???

-Should've made t-shirts (about coldwater, not about being crazy)

-Can't wait to see what God is going to do this week!!!

Friday, August 07, 2009

coldwater in 5, 4, 3...

I'm really excited for next week's mission trip to "somewhere". There is something about jumping into the unknown in order to serve God by serving people He loves that has always appealed to me. I don't want to have all the answers. I don't want my life to be all orderly and tied up with a nice little bow.

It's been fun to explain coldwater when people ask where we're going. "We don't know yet." is my usual response.
"Oh... don't you think you should decide pretty soon?"
"We'll know on Monday!"
"Oh... when are you leaving?"
"Monday."
"ummm.... uh....."
"Exactly." [By the way, yesterday, we found the spinner that will be used to determine which direction we travel - it's from a Mickey Mouse game my kids have!] We are counting on God to get us where He wants us to be...

Yes, I'm aware of the random nature of a spinner and drawing numbers out of hats. But I wonder if the nature of discipleship is less ordered than we might think? I wonder if we've lost our awareness of God at work in our haste to meet Him "at church" once a week? (sidenote - What a stupid phrase: "at church" - church is not a place!) When Paul ended up in Macedonia, was it because everything went according to plan? Or did He notice God wanting to do something else, and faithfully respond to His Spirit? Not just for this trip, but for life, may we be so responsive to the leading of the Spirit of Jesus.

Please be praying for Sam, Andrew, Micah, Jadie, Ashley, Greg, and I - the coldwater team. We want to humbly serve wherever we can. I'll try to keep things updated here next week and let you know where we're going and what we're doing - if we end up somewhere with service! Also pray for parents and families of those of us going - we'll try to keep you as informed as we can.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Confidence in the Spirit

After Moses spoke with God on the mountain (in Exodus 34) his face was radiant. It shone. He reflected God's glory. But Paul revealed later (In 2 Cor. 3) that it was a fading glory - so much so that Moses wore a veil over his face to keep his people from seeing the glory fade. Then Paul contrasts that to the unfading glory made possible through the Spirit's transforming work.

It is this ongoing transformation in us that reveals an increasing measure of God's glory. It is the Spirit of God within us that is transforming us into His image. The result of the Spirit for Paul was a confidence and freedom and a boldness and perseverance in making God known to the world. I have to confess, I don't always live that way. I can buckle under the weight of self-doubt. I find myself shackled by convention and rules on occasion. And I'm pretty sure bold is not a word most people would use to describe me.

Maybe you don't feel so bold either. Maybe you need to redirect your confidence to Someone more deserving than yourself (who ironically IS INSIDE YOU if you are in Him). Maybe you need to recall the hope to which we are called and respond with a confident offering of that same hope to those without it.

"We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." Rely on that power. Trust the Spirit living in you. Let Him continue to transform you in order to show Himself to the people around you. There is work to be done that requires more than we have to give on our own. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Another One Bites the Dust

Just got a call from another student who is dropping out of the coldwater mission next week. Ironically, the call came while I was in the middle of a discussion about students dropping out of the mission. I know this will be an experience like no other. I know this trip will stretch us in ways that are uncomfortable, but which will bring us to a deeper reliance on God.

That's why Satan is using so many sneaky ways to convince my kids not to come. He fears what God can do. He hates the idea of young people putting themselves aside in order to serve someone else. He can't stand the thought of someone getting a glimpse of the love of God for them, through the efforts of a bunch of students. So he's doing whatever he can to snuff out the initial excitement that was raised months ago when we first starting working toward this mission. And one by one, they drop.

Please pray for our students - both those who are going and those who are not. Pray for my attitude toward the students who choose not to go. Many have great, legitimate reasons for not going. Some have the most pathetic excuses I've ever heard (seriously, I can't write some out without laughing out loud - maybe later). Some students are not ready or called to go and serve on this mission - others are willfully ignoring the good they can do. Pray that I reflect Christ in my approach to each individual.

The way this is shaping up, I know God is working on something awesome. I wish some of the students who will be missing could experience it, but I'm very thankful for those who will and looking forward to working together to reveal God. I'm excited for coldwater. Excited to serve together and spend some great time being the church.
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If you're one of my students who's dropped from the trip or the parent of one, please don't make this post cause you to feel guilty about your choice. That is not my intent - I don't ever want to use guilt to motivate you. I understand that you have other things to take care of. Please be praying for those of us who are going - and feel free to join us for the local road cleanup Sunday night at 7:00 starting here at our building, also talk to Marshall and see if you can help serve food Thursday night while we're gone. God still loves you and so do I - don't let Satan win in your life.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Starting Over Link

Just came across a great, challenging article from Francis Chan. Thinking about how it applies to student ministry in the church today. If we were starting over with nothing - shaping a ministry to make disciples of young people - where would we start? What would be absolutely essential? What would the boldness of the Holy Spirit look like in our ministry?

"I keep coming back to the truth that we need to be planting churches of boldness - churches that boldly trust in the power of the Holy Spirit; boldly foster authentic, 24/7 community; and churches that pray boldly."

Go read the whole article. What could that type of mentality look like in our student ministries?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Thinking about Systems

I finally blocked out an hour of time and got to watch the Systems DVD from Andy Stanley that I got at CatalystWest a couple months ago. It was a great look at the way church systems don't always match up with our mission and vision and cause a disconnect between reality and the change we want to see happen.

"If a new leader casts new vision and brings a new sense of mission, but doesn't develop new systems, then nothing changes." People will do what the systems reward them for doing, and often we reward behaviors unintentionally that we don't really want to encourage. He ended with 3 questions to address: What are the behaviors we want to characterize the people in our ministry? What are we doing systemically to reward and motivate those behaviors? What are we accidentally doing to encourage behaviors we don't want?

I also finished reading Sustainable Youth Ministry the other day. The book digs into what it takes to develop a healthy system for youth ministry that lasts.

Lots to contemplate for me...

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