I’ve always been a bit fascinated with fear. When I was little, when the mildest frights could send me running, I still looked forward to October and to Halloween, the decorations, the costumes, and the spooky movies on the Disney channel each captivating my interest. In literature, I loved reading Edgar Allan Poe with his mastery of the macabre. Even in Batman cartoons and video games, I found myself enjoying the stories with Scarecrow more than the stories with many of the other villains. Fear, in a way, has been a lifelong interest. Continue reading
In high school and college, I saw a number of people set boundaries on their lives for the sake of holiness and purity. Friends of mine would declare a “Facebook fast” and would deactivate their accounts for months at a time, citing their need to strengthen a relationship with God as the motivation to abstain. Other friends would declare a year of singleness, determining not to date for twelve months in order to refocus on the Lord. Others set boundaries on existing relationships (“we will not be alone in a bedroom together”; “we will not hang out past 11:00 pm unless others are present”; “we will not kiss until marriage”). At the outset, hopes were high for the excited individuals, each one intent on drawing nearer to God. But not every promise produced the desired result, and not every pledge proved effective.
Marriage is a journey. I had the privilege of watching two dear friends begin that journey on Saturday, and I loved seeing their excitement for the road ahead. As they exchanged their vows and reflected on how God had so perfectly led them together, I saw yet another picture of God’s love for us. The simplicity and humility shown was beautiful, and it pointed to the pure example of Christ, who died for his enemies to make them adopted children of God.
As new marriages are beginning, others I know are marking the first of many anniversaries, allowing me to see couples in a various number of early stages. Not surprisingly, I’m learning a lot by watching those facing the challenges that time brings. Today, I wanted to continue adding to a post I wrote in June. I pray God will encourage and challenge you through these observations. Continue reading
Youth ministry can be a challenge.
Ok, that’s an understatement. Let me try again:
Youth ministry is a crucible through which one’s faith is put to the test in frightening and unimaginable ways. But that’s not to say there isn’t joy there as well.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
I’m not very good at being still. Even as I’m typing this, I’m noticing that I’m always moving: fingers typing as I write, foot tapping as I think, eyes scanning the room as I try to form sentences. I have to make a conscious effort to just be still, or I won’t stop. And this constant movement isn’t confined to fidgeting. My days are filled with tasks stacked upon one another like volumes in a second hand book shop. Between school and work and church, days can feel like mini-marathons.
Have you ever come across a verse in the Bible that you almost wished wasn’t there? Occasionally, I’ll read a verse that just doesn’t quite fit into a nice, neat box like I wish it would, and I’ll be challenged to recognize that God is in fact bigger than my little brain can comprehend.
I spent roughly the first seventeen and a half years of my life in the same city. I only ever attended my home church, I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school, and my circle of friends consisted almost solely of kids I’d grown up with at church and a handful of students I’d met through state youth choirs and events. My parents and extended family are largely Christian, and the friends I made in my neighborhood growing up were from much the same background as I. All in all, I lived a somewhat sheltered life.
Sometimes – nay, often – man has absolutely no idea of what God is doing. And I’m beginning to understand that the tension brought upon our faith by our ignorance of God’s plan is, in some cases, the best place for us to be as we seek to know him better.
Here’s the setting: You’re sitting in a restaurant with your friends enjoying dinner. This is one of those restaurants that offers complimentary ice cream cones after every meal, and the ice cream machine has been getting a steady stream of traffic since you sat down. As you watch, kids all across the building scarf down their food with enthusiasm before turning (with mouths still full of their last bites) to their parents to get permission to go get ice cream. The kids can hardly stay in their chairs, hopping down and running to the ice cream machine as soon as they get the go ahead. You watch as little boys and girls figure out just how high they can get their soft serve to go on their little cones, and you laugh as the once clean faces are now being painted with vanilla. But then you notice one little boy crying.