Category Archives: Relationships

Restless

   Some of you who read my blog know me better than others but those who know me well know that I don’t do things half way.  I am a very passionate person especially when it comes to the ministry I serve in.  I have served in different jobs where I was able to go to work, do my job, check out and go home and not think about work until the next time I showed up but ministry is much different.  Before my current ministry position I served as a postal ramp agent for a company that shipped out most of the mail from the state of Ohio to all of the other states.  While I worked hard, tried to have a good attitude, and help those in need so I could set a good example in my faith I honestly didn’t feel a passion for U.S. Mail.  I am glad I could do a good job, make my fellow employees laugh, and try not to freeze working 3rd shift at the airport however I was not passionate about people’s mail.

Things are so much different in my current ministry position….I love it…but last night I was restless.  I tried to go home and unwind afterwards but the teens were on my heart.  As I thought about  the day I was thankful for the opportunity to be able to preach in the contemporary service earlier in the day and I prayed for those I was able to minister to.  The best word that could describe how I felt last night was restless because I want so much for people to have a life of surrender to Jesus Christ.  I know how powerful it can be when a teen shares their faith with their friends, I know what kind of impact it can make when a parent takes that time to guide their child in their faith, I know the power of a Christian when they are in prayer for those around them, I know the love that is available when we as a church care just as much for those who don’t know Christ yet as those who are already at our churches.  When we surrender our lives to God and we die to ourselves and let him live through us we can see the power of a risen savior….we begin to expect the supernatural.

This is what kept me awake last night…this desire to see a people filled with the Holy Spirit reaching out to a broken and dying world with the hope of a new life in Christ.  I wish these thoughts would not have kept me up till 3 a.m. because that alarm clock came awfully early this morning but I never want that passion to die.

How about you…what is making you restless?

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It’s O.K. to laugh!

Yes my friends that is a giant pair of underpants I have on…This picture was taken last year at our Fall Encounter with our youth ministry.  We were getting ready to play a game where the teens had to have their entire team fit into their giant underwear and race against the other team around the building.  Some may say “Why do this?  What is the spiritual value in that?”  You are right no one had a mind-blowing vision from the book of Revelation after squeezing their team into the giant underwear….no one got saved by us racing around the building but some great things do happen when we let our guard down and act goofy.

This shows the teens and the adults it is O.K. to laugh at ourselves.  It shows the teens that the adult leaders in their group can kick back and have a good time.  Please understand my main focus as a Minister of Youth and Young Adults is train youth to be disciples and then for them to go out into the world and make disciples.  However, to see people take something as silly as a giant pair of underpants  and race around a building can make for an awesome bonding experience.

So my challenge for you is to let down your guard every now and then, have fun, be goofy, laugh at yourself, and don’t be surprised that when you do the awesome conversations and questions that happen because of it!

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Other duties as assigned…

Other duties as assigned

Many jobs have the phrase “others duties as assigned” at the end of their job description but I feel no other job quite fits this description like Youth Pastor.  The picture that you see above is with the youth from our church at our recent mission trip in North Carolina.  There were five youth groups there at our YouthWorks site in Taylorsville, NC and whatever youth ministry reached $300 of merchandise purchased first got to turn their leader in a human sundae which included chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup, sprinkles, and whip cream!  I must say I call shenanigans on this since we had the largest group doubling most of the other groups there but I played along nonetheless.  It had been really hot all week (usually over 100 degrees with the heat index each day) and we worked really hard and therefore I wasn’t particularly excited to get “Sundaed” right before we went home.  I thankfully got to take a shower (after I got rinsed off with freezing water from a garden hose) before I drove home but regardless I don’t think anyone would really choose to be blowing sprinkles out of their nose for half the day.  I would also like to call a second shenanigans because the youth also reached another incentive where one of the YouthWorks leaders had to eat a small cup of cottage cheese (she hated cottage cheese) however she ate 3 bites and gave up.

Why do I bring this up?  It’s because in the ministry we will be called to do many things we might not have “signed up for”.  During my interview process no one asked me, “Are you willing to be covered in chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup, sprinkles, and whip cream during the middle of the summer heat after serving all week before a 11 hour car ride?” However I believe there is much as a youth pastor that falls under the title “other duties as assigned.”  Does this mean that we have to do whatever people want us to do?  No way!  But are we willing to go the extra mile to reach out to those around us? To support them in their endeavors… I hope so….I think some of the most crucial things in youth ministry are for us to be able to laugh at ourselves, let down our guard, and enjoy life.

This picture although goofy reminds me that ministry will be messy both literally and figuratively at times.  We have to be willing to step out of the norm and be willing to step into the unknown.  Open up, let your guard down, share freely….maybe even get Sundaed and see where God might open up some doors.

What are some funny “other duties as assigned” stories you have?

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Do you feel like life is pouring down on you?

 

Image from savit keawtavee

 

I have struggled with depression in my life.  I have dealt with severe anxiety at times.  These are words people are afraid to share at times in the church for many reasons.  Sometimes I believe people don’t share this because they are afraid they will be looked at as failures, losers,  or not “real” Christians.  To be this open and vulnerable and to share these kinds of thoughts doesn’t always fit well in the life of the church.  It is much easier to go to a Bible study and say that your big struggle is you only read your Bible four days this week and not seven instead of saying that you are struggling with depression and you don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning.

In the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 14.8 million adult Americans experience clinical depression in any given year — or about 6.7 percent of the population over 18. Women are more likely to encounter major depression than men, and the average age for a bout of clinical depression to set in is 32. (http://curiosity.discovery.com)  However many go without seeking the help that they need.

This was the truth for me as well.  I luckily am no longer dealing with depression as it has been gone for close to 2 years now.  If I am honest with myself and with you I dealt with depression for numerous years.  It started off small where my view on life and myself began to change, my sleeping patterns began to change, my anxiety and irritability continued to grow, and my emotions always seemed unpredictable.  I brushed this off for a long time and just said I was in a “funk” and I was just upset because I wasn’t in a job that I desired to be (I had been out of ministry for 4 years).  However even when I did get back into full-time ministry I began to notice that I was still dealing with the ever-changing emotions, lack of desire to do anything….even those things I normally loved to do, and I even avoided people which isn’t normal for me.  It was then that I realized I needed help.  I met with a counselor to work through things that caused me anxiety which added to my depression and I began taking medicine to help with my recovery.

Yes I took medicine to help me get through my depression!  I can freely say I took medicine to help in my recovery and I am so glad I did.  This can be a difficult conversation in Christian circles as you will hear very many different viewpoints such as…

“Well if you are strong in your faith you should just be able to pray and you won’t feel depressed anymore.”

“Why are you taking medicine?  Can’t you just make yourself not sad anymore?”

“Oh my!  Don’t tell anyone that you are depressed and taking medicine they will think you’re not stable.”

“What do you have to be depressed about? I don’t understand why you need to take medicine?”

“So many people look up to you for advice and support you can’t let people know that you struggled with depression.”

Believe me if you are a Christian and you share about your depression with others you will hear these kind of statements….unfortunately.  I am here to say that because I finally stopped trying to do the whole cowboy thing and pull myself up by my bootstraps and admitted I needed help I got better.  The doctors and counselors made it very clear that even with the sessions and the medication I would still need to put forth the effort to get better.  The medication and the sessions were not some magic cure-all to make my problems go away but I am thankful I had them in my time of need.  After getting the help I needed I honestly felt like a veil had been removed an I felt like good ole’ Dave again.

So I am writing to say this if you believe you may be struggling with depression know this…

1. God loves you!

2. Seek the help you need!

3. Share how you are feeling with a trusted friend don’t go through this on your own.

What has been your experience with depression?

 

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The Cost of Following Jesus

 

What do you need to let go of?

 

Every now and then a verse I read just hits to the core of my being and yesterday it was Luke 14:33 when Jesus said, “If anyone is not willing to give up everything he has he cannot be my disciple.”  Those who know me know that I don’t live a lavish lifestyle.  I live in a 2 bedroom apartment, I drive a 97′ Ford T-bird, most of my furniture is donated or is pushing 10 years old or older so I am not necessarily living the high life.  However the truth is compared to most of the world I am rich.  I recently went to this website http://www.globalrichlist.com/ where you put in your salary before taxes and it will tell you how rich you are compared to the world.  When I put in my pre-tax salary it said I was in the top 6% richest people in the world.  As a Minister of Youth and Young Adults at church of around 250 I am not swimming in a big bank vault with lots of cash like Scrooge McDuck (sorry couldn’t resist the Duck Tales reference) but my church is very thoughtful of my living expenses and wants to make sure I can get groceries, pay bills, have a place to live, have a vehicle to drive, etc… However if you looked at my paycheck your eyes would not be bugging out of your head nor would you be doing back flips in amazement.  It can get very tempting to compare ourselves to people who get most of the publicity especially when you hear about things such as the story about British soccer player, Jermaine Pennant whose Porsche 911 was left at Spanish train station for 5 weeks and was accruing parking tickets.  When it was reported Jermaine explained that he forgot he owned the car?!?  Most of us would probably say if I had a Porsche 911 there is no way I would forget it!   Honestly there is no way I would forget about my 97′ T-bird for 5 weeks.  So we can say to ourselves, “Man, if I just had that kind of cash I would have it made!” but the truth is we are so well off compared to most in our world.  I just read an article that said if you have shelter, food, clothing, and some form of transportation (even riding the bus) you are in the top 15% richest people in the world.

So I come back to that verse in Luke 14:33 where Jesus says, “If anyone is not willing to give up everything he has he cannot be my disciple.”  I might not look at myself as rich but I am compared to the rest of the world.  I have so many privileges that many around the world would love to have.  So I ask myself is there things that I am holding onto more tightly than I am to God?  Are there things that I am treasuring more than his kingdom?  Am I willing to walk away from everything?  Could I let everything go? Car? Apartment? TV? Movies? Games?  Those are not easy questions but I am taking the steps to simplify my life more so I can give more to those in need.  I have begun to ask myself do I need two jackets when someone doesn’t even have one?  Do I need I need 6 sweaters?  Do I need cable TV when someone is struggling to put food on the table?  I want to make it clear I am not telling you what to give up but I would ask you to read that scripture again and examine your heart and ask yourself am I letting God have everything?  Am I holding onto certain things tighter than God?  Is there something that he wants me to let go?  Because my friends if we are going to be his disciples it is going to cost us everything!

 

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With Jesus :) ? Without Jesus :( ? Part 2

If we don't have Jesus then we're not happy?

Yesterday I talked a little about my issue with many Christian bumper stickers (Such as the one above) and how I think it provides a distorted view of  Christianity.  I addressed the first face that says “With Jesus” and has a big smile if you are interested in what I had to say about that I would encourage you to check out Part 1 of With Jesus 🙂 ?  Without Jesus 😦 ?

Today I want to take a look at the second part of this bumper sticker which says “Without Jesus” and has a 😦 face.  I am sure what was intended by this is to point out that without Jesus we will miss out on the purpose that God has for our lives and we will not experience the freedom from sin that comes by being receiving God’s gift through the sacrifice of his son for us.  However, I don’t think that is what this picture conveys.  Too me this picture is trying to say that if you don’t have Jesus you won’t be happy.   I don’t think this is true, I know lots of people who don’t follow Jesus but are living pretty happy lives.  There are many people who are currently “Without Jesus” but have wonderful families that love and care for one another, spend time reaching out in their communities to those less fortunate, are a good citizen, and overall enjoy their work and leisure life.

I think we miss the point when we tell people if you want to be happy you need Jesus.  Many people would reply, “Well I don’t currently have Jesus but I am pretty happy on my own but thanks anyways.”  I think this also really distorts the gospel and makes the central point us and what God can do for us.  Jesus is not a happy pill that we take to make all of our problems go away.  The point of the gospel is not about you or I it is about God.  The point of Christianity is not that Jesus love you and I so much that he died for us.  Even in the book “Radical” by David Platt he says, “The message of Biblical Christianity is “God loves me so that I might make him-his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness-known among all nations.  Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around him.  We are not the end of the gospel.  God is.”  I truly do enjoy that book but I feel it is even more important to look at scripture to see what we have been told and in Colossians 1:16 it says, “For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him.”  So the point is not we need Jesus and then we will be happy, the point is we have been created by God not for ourselves but we have been made by Him for Him!  We have been created to give him praise and make him known to the world!

So what do I believe?  I believe whether we are “With Jesus” or “Without Jesus” there will be times we will all feel happy, nervous, frustrated, angry, joyous, thankful, confused, annoyed, peaceful, distraught, and many other feelings.  I believe that the message of the gospel is not “Jesus will make you happy” I believe the message is we have been created through God and for God!  The entire story of creation, fall, and redemption is all for the glory of God.  As a Christian will I always be happy with Jesus? No, but in good times and in trials I can make him known to the world!

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Happy Thunderbird Christmas!

Ho Ho Ho Happy Thunderbird!

Last night as it was approaching 11:45 p.m. and I was getting ready to turn off the t.v., put my laundry away, and head to bed for the evening I got a phone call.  On the phone it said “private number”…now there are not too many people who show up on my phone as private number so I wondered what could be going on.  I picked up the phone and it took me about 2.3 seconds to realize that I was being prank called.  It didn’t take me long to figure out through the silly accent who was calling me and even though it was difficult for me to figure out what the person was saying I did hear, “Come see your car”.  So I left the warmth of my apartment and walked down to the end of the parking lot to see my car decorated as you see above in the picture with garland, wrapping paper, bows, and Merry Christmas and Santa written with window markers on the car.  I knew the culprits had to be hiding somewhere in the parking lot wanting to admire their handiwork and see the look on my face.  I looked and saw a familiar vehicle with people sitting in it….they saw me notice them to which they peeled out in the parking lot in glee!  We had some fun conversations after that and hung out till 2:30 a.m. this morning catching up on their first semesters in school.  I have to tell you I feel pretty wiped out today as I write this even though I have tried to chug down some caffeine.   I may be tired but it was all worth it!

I guess three things stood out to me from the events of last night…or should I say this morning

1.  You have to be able to laugh at yourself

We have to realize we all have flaws, we all do silly things, have funny habits or personality quirks and we need to be able to laugh and joke around with one another.  Understand I am not saying that we should bully one another or try to say cutting things and hurt people’s feelings but we need to be able to take a joke.  As I think about Jesus and his disciples we tend to hear the stories of the miracles that Jesus did and how the disciples reacted and were involved in the ministry but, I honestly want to hear some of the funny things they did when they were together.  Understand I am not trying to be sacrilegious but there is no way Jesus and the 12 disciples didn’t have some good laughs together.  I am sure there are lots of funny stories about their adventures together and I can’t wait to hear them!  Sometimes it is easy to take ourselves way to seriously when we really need to lighten up a little bit and connect with those around us.    So did it take me a little longer to clean up the stuff on my car this morning with the newly fallen snow…yes…but was it worth the laugh…yes!

2.  Look for the unexpected opportunities to invest

Our opportunities to invest won’t alway happen in a classroom setting with the Bible in front of us.  Was hanging out until 2:30-2:45 a.m. this morning what I had in mind? No not at all.  I was actually tired and I was ready to go to bed but then the opportunity came to spend a couple of hours with guys that I haven’t seen in a while.  We had some laughs, talked about college life, sports, roommates, and faith.  Our chances to be there for people are not always going to be convenient or conventional but even things like getting a burger with someone, taking them with you on an errand to Wal-mart, playing some Xbox together can lead to some good conversations about life and faith.

3.  Know when to say “No”

Sometimes people can take the previous statement and say “I always need to be available,”  “I always need to be able to be contacted,” “I always have to be there for someone to hang out with,”  “I need to spend 5 nights a week out doing ministry.”  This is not true!  Be ready and willing to invest in people’s lives when God leads you to do so but also know when to say “No” when you need to spend time with your family, your friends, or just yourself.  So to my friends in ministry know when to say no.  Everyone won’t understand this, not everyone will get it, some will get mad, some will say mean things about you but know you have a responsibility to look out for your health (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically) and to take care of your family.  Last night was a great opportunity for me to be there for others…my fiancée had worked a long day, wasn’t feeling the greatest, and went to her house early to call it a night and so I had some time to be there for others.  Now if I had already been out several nights that week doing ministry and I hadn’t seen my Fiancée’ very much that week and you asked if I would want to hang out until 2:30 a.m. the answer would have been “No, thanks maybe next time”.  I would have known that my Fiancée’ would need me to be there for her.  To those of you who are not in ministry whether you are a youth or an adult you are gonna have lots of people pulling at you for your time and you have to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.  You will need to take a look at your priorities and ask yourself if this is the best use of your time for what you are wanting to accomplish.  Sometimes you need a day out with friends to just kick back, eat some burgers, and have some laughs.  Sometimes you will need some time to just spend with you and God, or maybe to relax and read a good book.  There might be other times that someone needs you to be there for them and invest in their life.  But if you don’t say “no” to some things you are going to miss out on something you should have said “yes” to.

So even though it was a night of silliness I was reminded of some important things and I hope during this busy holiday season that you don’t forget to laugh at yourself a little, look for those unexpected opportunities to invest, and know when to say “No”!

Have a merry Christmas!!!

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