Faith Lab: Looking in the Right place

word worldEden has taken a liking to a show called Word World.  At first glance it looks like a strangely animated kids  show that was created on a shoestring budget and that is why the characters are shaped funny.  But a closer look shows the true glamour of the show.  All of the characters are made up of the letters that spell what they are.  The house, the bear, the ant that grows when they add a gi- in front of the -ant.  It is really clever.  I found myself pleased when i found that the bush was cut to spell out shrub.

This show is in direct contrast to the 2 days that I have been trying to work on a couple of websites and customize the code to change a couple of visual things.  Time and time again I made adjustments and nothing happened.  This is because i was editing in the wrong file.  When I figured out where to look I could see the difference my changes were making to the site.

In student ministry I think that we have to spend a lot of our time sharing ways with our students ways to look for God.  At times we get into a rut and feel like God had to show up in a particular way or at a particular time.  Yet as we search scriptures some of the biggest Bible heroes miss out on what God is trying to tell them the first time because they are looking or expecting God to come in a different way.

Spiritual hand-holding can come in the form of conversation, prayer or challenging students to get out of their spiritual ruts.  For this we have to be willing to try different spiritual practices ourselves.  Recently, while cleaning the house, I found a rosary.   For the past week or so I have been using it as a tool to help my prayer life.  I am not praying the rosary, but using it like prayer beads or a prayer rope.  This has been a great way to reconnect with my prayer time in a new way.

Challenge yourself and your students to be bold and look for God in some new places.  You will be surprised how God shows up.

Faith Lab: leftovers

stock dishwasher imageLast night I was doing a load of dishes and realized that most of the things that I was putting into the washer for that particular load were Tupperware or glad reusable containers.  I didn’t know what to think about it at first except that our top rack wasn’t large enough for the top rack only assortment that we had to go into the washer.  Then I thought about the larger picture.  What does this say about the way that we have been eating lately?  I was encouraged.  It means that we have not been eating out, or throwing away the things that are leftover, but we are eating all that we make (even if it is a day or two later). 

In the same way, I was going through some old youth messages and sermons the other day.  When I saw the volumes of messages I thought “I talk a lot”.  The second thought I had was some comfort that I have kept these in such good order.  With some tweaking and updating they could come out again for another series or sermon. Particularly in student ministry there is a feeling of a finite amount of time that we are blessed to have students.  Many times (especially around graduation time) this is felt in a sad way.  But the good news is that as students age out of our ministries younger student are just discovering what we have going on. 

In this way I have taken a lot of time and energy to shape out a well rounded scope plan for our students to encounter a large chunk of the Bible and spiritual teachings by the time they graduate from High School.  I have a rotation of topical and scriptural based series I teach.  When the rotation is over I can begin again in some organized way.  The best part is that I can take the leftovers from the last time and a lot of the legwork and scriptural interpretation is done.  New examples and illustrations are used, but I love the time it saves because then I can spend it connecting with students throughout the week. 

Do you have a way to deal with your leftovers?  Do you “upcycle” lessons?  Do you share them with other ministry leaders?  What are your thoughts?

Simple

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There is a simple joy about riding.  There is a freedom that comes with setting out on the road and just plotting a course and then making detours along the way.  Running doesn’t afford me this joy because, well frankly, I am way too slow and really don’t like it.  Whether I am riding into work, taking a 50 mile spin on the road, rollin over logs in the Watershed or most recently peddling through the snow I always find a release.  Others call this “balcony time” where you are free to let your mind run wild and dream.  In college I use to have this time in the pool with the rhythm of my strokes clearing my head so that I could map out papers, youth lessons or great inventions that I will one day make. 

Where do you find this kind of time?

Faith Lab: Right Answers?

cloneI was in a meeting the other day (not a church meeting) where there was an agenda that was proposed and then there was conversation that was to follow that would address the different points of view and how the group could come to a conclusion that would be beneficial for everyone who was involved.  But here is the rub, the beginning presentation to this rather controversial issue very clearly made a polarized stand on the issue.  Further, if you didn’t see the issue as the  initial argument then you were seen as an outsider or someone who “hadn’t thought the issue through fully.”

In ministry we deal with a number of issues that divide people (finance, sex, immigration, treatment of the poor, care for those who cannot care for themselves, …the list goes on).  These are real and important issues, but is having the “right” answer the most important thing?  Is my goal that everyone have the same stance as me on a certain issue? Not at all.  Yet, we must because in the ways that we present the issues as to not ostracize one view over another.  When we alienate portions of our congregation they shut off their hearts to the way God is moving. 

So is the point of having conversations about issues that divide people simply to bludgeon everyone into having your world view.  Or is it an invitation into a process where everyone seeks an understanding of the issues that meshes with their understanding of God and who God is calling them to be.   Some one said that being a United Methodist is not about what you believe, but about how you believe it. 

My goal is not to make clones.  I cannot imagine a whole congregation believing the same things as me.  For one there would be little accountability.  Scripture says that iron sharpens iron and in the same way we are able to hold one another accountable.  I love the diversity in the church, but this will end very quickly if we are not always aware of how we are presenting issues. 

I sometimes say to my students, “you are the only one who has to live with what you believe, so don’t believe something for my sake.  I have enough of my own beliefs, and now it is time for you to get some of your own personal ones.”

this week think about the issues you raise as a church leader.  Are there any ways you are tilting the balance so that others may feel “under attack”?  How might this change?

A refreshing message

Does-God-Care_720At MUMC last week we kicked off a series called Does God Care?  This series seeks to address some of the primal questions we have as humans and people of faith.  Questions like, why do bad things happen to good people, why does a compassionate God allow natural disasters and others that we continually wrestle with.  Dr. Bruce Birch, the retired dean of Wesley Theological seminary and emeritus Old Testament professor began the series and brought a refreshing word.  The most striking part for me was that it was great to hear a message about the book of Job with hearing that God was testing Job and so Job was rewarded in the end.  If you missed it please watch and let me know what you think.

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Faith lab: little things

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Today I took a bike ride.  It was a very chilly ride that was much needed. It is just really nice to get out on the road rather than on a trainer. 

But if you take a look at the picture to the left you will notice that the saddle (aka seat) is not where it should be.  101_6278On my way back to the house there was a bump in the road that snapped the screw that held the saddle onto the seat post.  As a result I had to pick up the pieces and finish the ride without the luxury of a place to sit.  All because of a broken screw that is 1/2 the size of my pinky. 

Many in ministry times it seems like it is the little things that lead to big problems, seemingly overwhelming odds or heartbreak.  There are times where we need to ask some regular maintenance questions to our young people.  These might not me the most fun conversations or the most interesting, but asking the questions that tighten some screws before the come undone are worth more than we cold ever know.  John Wesley asked the question, “How is it with your soul” to his followers.  Are we doing this with our young people? Are we being intentional on asking our students about their hearts rather than just “How was your week?”  Asking questions about their devotional lives, relationships with the family allows us insight and opportunity to have some maintenance time with them .

The same and different

I was looking for some dinner tonight and was marveling at
the awesome job of shopping that Katie did today with Eden. They
got great stuff, including some tricolored tortellini. As I look at
the different color of pasta I thought about the way that at our
core we are all called to the same thing, living a life in response
to the grace that God has extended to us. Put another way, loving
God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. But the way that
we go about this is very different. From our jobs to the way we
relate with others we are unique. And so like my pasta, that I am
saving for tomorrow night, we all have to live in to our two fold
call as God. First is the universal call that is the same for each
of us that speaks to our core or our God shaped hole. This is the
call to be God’s. The second is to be uniquely you and live out the
call to be the special creation that you are in your own way. Just
a thought from a guy debating about that to eat for
dinner.