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.

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)

I Love God (And Teengers aren’t bad either)

Tonight was one of those throw away lessons. You know the kind I am talking about. We ended our ilife series last week and we have business meeting next week so I didn’t want to start anything new and I have a D-Now that I am speaking at on Friday so I didn’t have much time. I was just looking for something that wouldn’t suck. I decided early in the week to go with one of the talks from the D-Now so I wouldn’t have to do extra work. The other thought running through my head was to just sing and play games and let that be the whole night.

In the end I had a simple yet diverse evening planned that ended up being…being…I almost want to say magical, but that is too Disney, mystical is close, but if I really wanted to pick a word I would have to say worship. In the end, what you would have to say about it was that our evening was a time of worship.

If you want to hear about all that went on keep reading.

We played a few games (including a simple trust dive that I don’t do often, but I find very fun, and elbow tag, the greatest game ever!) And then we moved into the formal worship time.

We opened with a couple of songs. All through this part of worship (she was finished before I started talking) there was a lady in our church drawing a picture using chalk. She drew an abstract piece of people with their hands raised in praise. It was very, very cool. I can’t draw, but I a very visual worshiper. I love images in worship. I missed like 3 cues because I was watching her draw.

After the first 2 songs I presented a new performance poetry piece. (Check it out in the post Lord, Undo Me). Then I simply invited the students to worship how they wanted. I gave them 5 options: They could journal on the paper provided; they could draw on our praise art wall; they could go in the back and dance, move or pretty much do what they wanted; they could come to the front and pray; or they could do whatever else they felt like in worship as long as they didn’t disturb other people.

The screen played a loop of worship images while we played the Matt Redmond song "Facedown." I didn’t really get a chance to hang out because right at the beginning a student came up to talk to me about some issues about choosing God.

After the Facedown song we sang 2 more songs and I talked for about 15 minutes. Then we had what all Baptist love, an invitation.

I don’t know how or why it was worship, but I know it was. I have learned through many, many different gatherings that it isn’t what you have planned, and it isn’t what songs you are singing or what cool new thing you are trying. Worship happens because God reveals himself to us. Worship happens when we wake up to the fact that God really is around us and that He is worthy of praise.

Planning can create an atmosphere where worship can happen, but worship is all about God and not about us. It is because of His movement, and a gift directly from him, not from our efforts. Now maybe I can remember that the next time I feel mad at myself and like a looser because something didn’t work right.

I have to admit that it is the nights like tonight that really keep me going. I told a student tonight that when it comes to what I think are the big things in life God I rarely see God moving. I have never seen anyone miraculously healed, and I can’t explain why hurricanes take lives or parents die, but when I see students engaged in worship I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a God. I know that He moves and that he hears me when I pray. I don’t understand all that there to understand about Him, but it is nights like tonight that He reminds me that He is real.

God is Good

Tonight was one of those rare youth ministry times when things just seem to work out. It was like when the clouds break and you can actually see the rays of sunshine. OK, maybe I am getting a little flowery, but it was a cool night.

You see there is this guy who I have known for a while now. I met him at an in town event and put him on our mailing list. 3 years have gone by with me mailing him letter, and seeing him at school, but he has never been to Calvary. As far as I know he hasn’t been to church anywhere in that time. So finally he shows up at church tonight.

Tonight was a good night for him to be there because we were talking about acceptance and about how since God accepts us we can accept others. I had geared the whole thing as an evangelistic lesson because I have a crowd of people who are regular attenders, but who aren’t Christians and I would have a real old fashioned invitation.

So at the end of the talk I start the invitation and I stand there for a while looking at everyone and thinking I may have misjudged the situation and suddenly this guy comes walking down the isle and tells me he wants to give his life to God. It was remarkable. So we walk out in the hall and do some counseling and I don’t think he knows all that he is getting into just yet, but he became a Christian tonight. Those of you who don’t work with teenagers may not realize what a rare gift that really is for us workers. It was really cool.

I have been having a hard time recently and this really opened my eyes. I could write for a year about my life this week and how God has been teaching me that I am small and he is big and how I have been trying to let him have control and then cool stuff like this happens, but I have to head to bed. I am going to the Catalyst conference in the morning so I will write more on Saturday