I am a Teacher

I am a Teacher

I am a teacher. I have known this for a long time, but sometimes I forget. In a world of meetings and planning and organizing and seeing the big picture it is easy to get bogged down, but at my core I am a teacher. It is what I have been gifted to do.

I really do teach at everything. I like learning new things just so that I can teach others. I like finding new places so I can tell you how to get there. I like figuring out how to do something so that I can help someone else figure out how to do it. And of course I love looking through the word of God and finding new ways to teach timeless truths. It is just how I am wired.

As I get ready for a new ministry opportunity (read new job) next week I am full of little administrative things that need to get done. There are names to learn, events to plan, teams to organize, budgets to figure out, and that isn’t even mentioning trying to figure out what a truly family affirming ministry really looks like in practice. For a great deal of my time getting ready for this new job all of those concerns were what I have been trying to focus on. Those are the things that have been dominating my thoughts.

But I have also had the wonderful opportunity over the past 3 weeks to fill in as an interim speaker at a church about an hour from here. It has been a great opportunity to not have to focus on anything other than just the teaching. I don’t have to plan a vision or organize a meeting. I only have to go and teach (and tonight I got to play djembe, which is always fun, but that’s a different post). Tonight I was reminded again how much I am wired to teach and how much it speaks to my heart. And now I am even more excited to start some place new.

I am excited because there are new opportunities and new things to learn. I am excited to work with new people and to plan new events, but right now I am excited because I get to teach again. I get to stand in front of students and share the deep truths of God. I get to sit with students and wrestle with the questions of the faith. I get to walk along side students and teach them about living out their faith as we go through our lives together.

I am a teacher, and I can’t wait for a new opportunity to teach. My God, my great and wonderful God loves me enough to give me opportunities to do exactly what I was created to do. There isn’t much that makes me smile more.

From Jen

I know it has been a while since I have regularly updated this site, so I am very thankful that people still come and find help here. Nailscars.com was always designed to be a place where people (me especially) could speak honestly about the struggles that face Christians and ministers in particular. Last week I got this honest letter from a reader and with her permission wanted to share it here. Sometimes just hearing that someone else has similar thoughts and struggles is enough to help us through to the other side of them.

I have loved and followed God all of my life but in the recent years, like a plague or cancer, slowly my faith has deteriorated and at times seems lifeless. my heart is fixed on serving God, loving His people, bringing life into this dying world, but amongst all of that, somewhere along the way I lost my balance.  Maybe its from trying to hold it ALL together.  I truly don’t know.  But what I do know is that my heart is aching for change.  My heart is longing for His grace.  My heart is aching to know Him like I once did when I was a teen.  I was on fire.  Nothing and NO ONE could tell me anything that would cause me to question my belief in Him.  Each day it seems to suck the life right out of me.  Trying to do the right thing, be the light, to help, to hold others up, but inside I am dying. Dying to feel Him again.  There are times that I feel the peace that I KNOW that only He could provide, but those times are numbered.  What happened to the girl that no one could shake? The girl that no one could change.  Granted, I had my days of a painful past that still echoes through each day, but what happened to the childlike innocense of just talking with Him?  I just miss Him.  I just feel that I have lost His love for me somewhere along the way and nothing seems to resolve my issue or pain.  To not understand Him is one thing, but to fear that He has gone or never was, just devistates me. 

If you are in a similar position take heart. God has not forgotten you. The creator of the universe, the creator of you, knows you and loves you. More than that when He thinks about you (which according to David in Psalm 139 happens more times than there are grains of sand), when he thinks about you, He smiles. Remember that, hold fast to that, and let the rest take care of itself.

Hail, Nathan, and the Protection of God

Before I go on there is something you need to know about me. I am not one of those “let’s stop and pray about it” type of people. I have often wished I was, but I’m not the guy who thinks to stop and pray when bad things are happening. Well, at least not out loud. Inside I am often caring on a dialog with God and myself so I generally pray when things are stressful, but I rarely ever am the person who suggests that the whole group pray.

I think it one of the big reasons is that I am scared of what will happen if we all pray and then things get worse. I guess I am afraid of God letting me down. But that is a whole other longer issue that I need to work through.

Today Nathan and I ended up out in a very open parking lot virtually all by ourselves in the middle of a very strong storm. I think I could have handled that (and Nathan would have slept right through it) if it wasn’t for the hail. It started small, but it wasn’t long before walnut sized pieces of ice were bouncing off our van. It was very loud and Nathan woke up saying, “Daddy, it’s loud!”

He isn’t a big fan of loud things and I could tell that he was very close to being upset. I was pretty anxious too, by now so I am sure that didn’t help his mood much. I tried to put on a brave face and turned on a DVD. That didn’t really help because the hail was so loud we couldn’t hear the DVD.

So I am sitting in the front seat trying my best to smile at Nathan in the back seat and assure him that everything was going to be OK, when all the while I am praying in my head asking God to really help things be OK.

That is when it hit me. How will Nathan ever learn that he can pray in times like this if he doesn’t know I am praying. I debated for a few minutes about the best way to let him know I was praying. Finally I just went for this conversation:

Me: Nathan, are you scared?

Nathan: [nods]

Me: Do you know who can take care of us when we are scared?

Nathan: Mommy

Me: Yes, but God can take care of us too. Do you want to pray and ask God to take care of us?

Nathan: [nods]

Me: OK, say, God will you take care of us.

Nathan: God? Will you take care of us?

 

That was it. Nathan prayed and even the cynic in me has to say that God responded. In the first place the mood in the van lightened considerably. Somehow we both knew we were going to be fine. In the second place the hail ended almost immediately and within a couple of minutes the rain let up to just a nice summer shower.

Later I made sure that Nathan told Meredith that God had taken care of us when it was raining. God will take care of us when we are scared. That is a lesson I don’t want him to forget.

I don’t want to forget it either.

Unashamed Worship

We are at M-Fuge this week. This story makes a whole lot more sense if I start off with that fact.

Today I got to see unashamed worship in a way that absolutely blew me away. Working as a youth pastor and as a worship leader I get to worship in lots of different ways. Normally when it comes to corporate settings I am the one doing the leading. But today was really one of the coolest worship moments of my life and probably the purest moment of worship I have experienced all year.

It didn’t come at camp with all of the big flashy lights and songs, although there have been some cool moments there too. It happened in a day program for seniors where I met this 99 year old man, who will turn 100 in a month and who could play a harmonica like no one I had ever seen.

This man, who had been playing harmonica since he was 12 (you can do the math) was very proud of the way he could play and very proud of his double sided harmonica. He even had a letter written by some famous harmonica player (whom I had never heard of) who gave him the instrument he was playing.

We were at this day center to sing a few hymns do a couple of crafts and interact with the senior adults. I had played a few songs on the guitar so this man asked me if we could play together.

I am not a very good guitar player. I mean, I can play chords and songs, but I need music. I don’t play by ear, and since I am self taught I never really learned stuff like what chords are in what key. But none of that mattered. Mr. Sommer played and I did my best to keep up. He would nod at me when to change chords and he would stop and encourage me from time to time.

He and I started off alone, playing songs like “I’ll Fly Away” and “Amazing Grace.” We played them quietly for a while learning each other and trying to pick out the notes, but as we found our rhythm I began to sing a little louder and he began to play a little louder. I missed more notes than I got right, but it didn’t matter he and I were connected in a way that I think only musicians (and it is funny to call myself that) can understand.

We were playing and singing and just sort of forgot about everything else for a while and so when he got up and started to to a little dance, just a little soft shoe keeping time with the beat, I got up too and began to dance as well. By the time we finished I’ll Fly Away for the 4 time I looked up and noticed two things 1) we had an audience and 2) I was out of breath and the 99 year old playing the harmonica wasn’t.

It is hard to explain a moment like this. Even in the writing I feel like I have tainted it somehow. It was worship that was pure, I could see it in his eyes and for those few minutes that we played we formed a connection to each other because of our connection with God.

I saw unashamed worship today and it made me hungry for more.

You take the good, you take the bad…

Tonight was a crazy night. I am nearly at the end of my marathon work week (8 straight nights at church Sunday-Sunday) and although I can see the light at the end of the tunnel I am very tired right now.

We had one of our WILDLIFE meetings tonight, and while they are fun, they aren’t really accomplishing anything, and when I am tired they just are more pain than fun. I learned some stuff from tonight too, but that is a whole different post.

So afterwards I ended up with something really cool and something really annoying. One of my guys who plays D&D with us waited around so that I could take him home (he helped me mop, too) and on the way home he prayed to accept Christ. It was very, very cool.

I would have been dancing for joy, except that I had another student who had been kicked out of his house and I had to figure out where he was going to go and stay.  He is in my house tonight, and while it isn’t ideal, it goes with the territory. You can’t be a youth pastor and not expect to take in refugee kids from time to time.

So tonight was good and bad, but isn’t that how most things work out. (I did get to play guitar with the band, though and that was very cool. It makes me feel like a rock star)