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one of the top ten

Sunday, September 30, 2007
Here's one of the top ten reasons I love my job....

We were doing a popcorn prayer about what we were thankful for tonight with just the mid high group.

There were normal things like friends, family, and youth group.

But then there was applesauce, Los Lunas (a town nearby) and Republicans.

Only with my job. Really.

Laura's life lessons

Thursday, September 27, 2007
Each month I send out a newsletter to my youth and include a section where I get to share something I've learned that month. The point is to understand that we are always still learning and *gasp* adults make mistakes, learn things, and aren't perfect. I'll start sharing those here.

I have some posts to come about my weekend learning from Yaconelli as well. I just keep forgetting to bring my notebook to work and I haven't been home much earlier than 11 pm every night this week. I just got my copies of Contemplative Youth Ministry and Growing Souls so I'll be diving into those this weekend too.

Without further ado... here's what I was thinking about today and am sharing with my youth in this upcoming newsletter...

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It was the first night of the youth worker retreat, and there I sat, trying to pray and I kept getting distracted. Our worship gatherings over the weekend together were filled with prayer. They were filled with petitions and intercession. They were filled with praying through the scriptures and praying for students, and praying for the church worldwide and for countless other things. As we sat and prayed, I had no idea how hard those minutes were going to be. I thought to myself, “This should be easy, I just spent weeks working on programs for youth that were focused on prayer.”

As the weekend went on, during each worship gathering the prayer time became easier. By Sunday morning, I was feeling anxious about heading home and not having this intentional prayer time each day for me to sort through my thoughts and just be given permission to pray and be still in God’s presence.

Sometimes in our hyperactive culture, we don’t take the time to slow down and pray for the situations we’re in and the people that surround us. I often take time to have a conversation with God as I drive, or when I’m standing in line at the grocery store, but I struggle to find quiet time for just me and God with no distraction. This past weekend, I learned I needed that time more than any other in my day.

I encourage you to find the time in your day to just sit and be with God. Sometimes it can be hard when other things flood our minds, but I guarantee that your day will be better and your soul will be more whole when you take the time to retreat and be in the presence of the Holy One. God has been, is and always will be speaking if we just stop and take the time to be in the Holy Presence of the Spirit.

mandatory retreating...

Friday, September 21, 2007
God is good. And I think that everyone should take a mandatory retreat. Not that this one is mandatory, but it definitely probably should have been for me.

Today so far we've had some prayer time this morning praying through Romans 6, we've been just gathering together to talk and laugh, and laugh a ton more, and then this afternoon a handful of us went golfing. And it was way an awesome experience. We played best ball which was good because all of us hadn't played much lately and were sharing clubs. It was definitely a good time though and I'm hoping to get some more golf time in during the future.

Tonight our speaker gets in and we will worship together which should be good. There is just something about being on retreat in these mountains. Definitely a good way to sort of mark being in this job for 3 months.

make the journey part of the retreat...

Thursday, September 20, 2007
I'm currently on retreat with 14 of the coolest youth pastors I know. Tomorrow we get to hear from Mark Yaconelli and I am certain that insights will be gained in abundance, but today has been the day to begin the retreat.

Yesterday, my friend Christy and her mom told me that I needed to make the journey part of the retreat. My weariness has started to really show through, so the journey needed to be part of the recovery process for me. Little did I know I definitely was in for retreat from life as I know it the minute we hit the road.

Five of us took off together (it was supposed to be six but one was sick and couldn't make it) and headed our way south. We took our time this morning getting out of the city, getting some breakfast, some snacks, and the itrip for the ipods.

We traveled and stopped in Tularosa for lunch and laughed and discussed and began this process of being away from our lives and our jobs. I turned my phone off shortly after leaving the city, and won't turn it back on until Sunday. That is a good feeling.

We stopped again to pick up some pistachios, then again at the old apple barn. By the time we had that stop we were all cracking each other up and I brought up the idea of making the journey part of the retreat. We all agreed that we had done nothing short of that, and that we were all already feeling a lot better than the day before.

Now I'm just going to try to really live in the moment down here, enjoy the torrential downpours of rain, and be at peace with myself and my surroundings. That is something that I find extremely difficult to do most of the time, but I'm trying to let go and let God do some things in my heart and mind this weekend. Hopefully that will happen.

on singles ministry... and why i think it is bad...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Over the past few weeks I have gotten a handful of inquiries about starting a singles ministry at the church.

I am the youth director. Just because I am the only single person on staff should not mean that I am obligated to create some place for singles to meet and hang out. Besides the fact that they are wholly ineffective and usually just turn into youth groups for adults. By which I mean, everyone dates everyone else to get out of their singleness, and then they get mad at each other and then there is weird awkward tension in the group. Of course it is different than in youth groups because for the most part, youth get over it. Which I am thankful for.

I might have had a stern interaction with a volunteer who immediately assumed that a phone call about singles ministry should go straight to me. Which was slightly ridiculous of me, but I also think that it is really ridiculous of people to assume that I'll start one. My job title is director of youth ministries. Though I'm doing some young adult stuff too, nowhere does it say that I do adult ministries or singles ministries.

Just something that got my goat this week. So I don't plan on catering to things that people want me to do, and number one on the list is singles ministries. I've never seen one that isn't filled with middle aged people or that is effective. I'm all for the social principles affirming single persons, don't get me wrong at all, I just think affirming them is hanging out with people who are single, married, in a committed relationship, or whatever. To be honest, most of my friends in my life right now are not single, and I am completely fine with not having to deal with the drama of single friends dating and being all confused about it and asking for advice. I don't have the time to date right now let alone start some singles ministry.

End soap box.

I'm off to a youth worker retreat this weekend and I am beyond excited about it. But I still have a lot to get done in the next 20 minutes, so back to the grindstone!

playing the link game...

Monday, September 17, 2007
My friend Ben wrote an article about the conference I went to way back in May and it is up on the umc.org website here.

I have a handful of friends in seminary to become pastors in the United Methodist Church, and a large amount of people I know who have thought about seminary and going into parish ministry, but the process is antiquated and doesn't seem to help those who are pursuing a calling.

A huge part of why I'm not in seminary right now is that the candidacy process isn't terribly appealing to me at the moment. For someone who at least for a time feels called to youth ministry, I feel like I am serving better in my current capacity than I would be if I ran off to seminary and ended up doing youth ministry and trying to be an associate pastor at the same time.

So many young clergy are forced into doing things that they aren't passionate about, and this is after they've been completely torn to shreds by the Board of Ordained Ministry. I was taught early on that if I wanted to go into ministry to work on becoming friends with people on the Board of Ordained Ministry. It is almost a good ole boys concept still which really really irritates me.

There are reasons that I will have to jump through hoops one day. Pastors in the UM tradition are basically guaranteed a job once they get out of the probationary period (don't get me started on how I think the word "probationary" is bad).

In any case... Ben did an awesome job of summing up the event, so go check it out.... Coming up next here, probably tomorrow... a discourse on why I hate the term "singles ministry" and why I am frustrated with the thought of it.

new digs...

Saturday, September 15, 2007
So here are some interior shots of the apartment. I'm loving it. Seriously.

My friend Tara helped me with color scheme, and she was awesome at it. My bedroom is probably close to my favorite...

But really, who couldn't love the fireplace in the living room?

My kitchen is fantastic. I mean really, I couldn't ask for much more.

sometimes my life is kind of strange

Friday, September 14, 2007

I finally got my internet up and running. I swear if I weren't a super sleuth who spent way too much time learning about computers I would spend a lot of time not knowing how to do stuff. Of course getting the internet up and running took longer than normal, but my service provider is getting sneaky about letting people use modems that they don't sell you. Needless to say, I have internet and am using the modem that has the wireless built in. Only took me a couple of hours of scratching my brain though. Tricky people and their hidden PPP login info...

Tonight I attended my very first rodeo. A friend had some extra tickets and invited me and I actually ended up inviting 2 other friends to come along. All 3 of them didn't even know each other at all. But we had a really great time and I was really pleased with how we all got along. Definitely very cool.

After the rodeo, some country singer took the stage. I definitely let it be known that I don't care for country, but I was having some fun with some people I don't get to hang out with much, so I decided to not be a complete loser and stuck around with them.

Contrary to what the 3 of them decided, I'm not leaving my music behind for country. But all in all it was an enjoyable experience. Especially when the guy played a little Johnny Cash... you can't go wrong with him...

Here is a video... we'll see if the new blogger feature really works.

a rut in the day...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I always hit a block at about 3:30 each day at work. Sometimes I can fix it with a diet coke, but I've really been trying to keep my caffeine intake to a minimum so I've been trying to find other ways to get through the block. I haven't succeeded much this week due to a head cold that I'm battling, but most weeks I get through it and get a lot done from about 4-6.

One of the awesome parts of my job is just hanging out with teenagers. And with the extreme busy schedules they all have, this has proved to be pretty difficult, but not impossible.

One of the super cool things about living in the era I do and working with post-modern youth is that I can check up on them pretty easily. With social networking tools, through im and text messaging, it takes just a few seconds for me to see how my youth are doing and see if they need anything from me whether it is an ear to listen, advice, or someone who gives them a good laugh.
I know a lot of people who don't really consider all of those forms of communication true communication. I wholeheartedly disagree. Sure, meeting in person is always my preferred way to see how my youth are doing, but sometimes there just isn't time for it as they run from school to sports and have mounds of homework. So I do what I can with what I've got so far. And so far it seems to be working, so no complaints here.

So the thing that has been getting me out of my rut lately is that as the youth come home from school, I usually have a few that check in with me anywhere from 4-6. And suddenly I'm getting work done, I'm doing some counseling, I'm just listening, and the rut of the day disappears. I love how God takes care of stuff like that. When I get discouraged, suddenly I am presented with an opportunity to be in relationship with awesome teenagers. It makes my day. Seriously.

all sorts of busy stuff

Monday, September 10, 2007
Let's go through a run through of a typical week, shall we?

Sunday - Work from 8-8 This varies but is usually just about that time frame. I enjoy it, but it certainly takes a lot out of me. Last night I started up a new young adult group. There were 4 of us there, but we have more prospects. I think this is awesome, but it totally extends my Sunday nights almost beyond what I want. It was a night that worked for people though so we will see where it goes.

Monday- Roll into work at about 9:30. Start working on stuff for the next Sunday, deal with anything bad that happened Sunday night. Bring volunteers up to speed with where we're going. I have the tendency to work through lunch on Mondays. This is probably not a good thing. I stay til at least 5 and head over to Bible Study sometime after that. Bible study is at 6, and we usually run til about 9.

Tuesdays- Get in to work, do a bit before staff meeting. Staff meeting and usually lunch with staff. Tuesday afternoons I really start to put legs on whatever program we're doing on Sundays. Tuesday nights are relatively calm usually, with a meeting once a month, but not much else.

Wednesday- Morning Bible Study and lunch with the women of the word Bible study. I am blessed to be the youngest in the group, and have gained much wisdom from those who have walked before me. Seriously, I love this group. Wednesday I keep chugging on youth stuff and try to get done for Sunday but it doesn't always happen. Wed night starting next week- Bible study at 5:30-7 and then book study at 7. This is nuts. Really.

Thursday- I try to get ahead. It doesn't always work. But really, this is the day I set aside for spending time coming up with ideas, doing a little reading, or figuring out the craziness that is my office.

Fridays- My one day off that I try to hold REALLY sacred. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Saturdays - Counterculture stuff from 3:30- whenever I get home late at night. I usually have some last minute stuff to get done for Sunday. But I try really hard not to. As far as a Sabbath goes, I try to make Saturday it. Worshipping, praising, taking care of my soul.

Of course none of this counts any of the random crazy meetings that spring up. Or when my kids need someone to talk to at 8 pm. Or when I have special events. Or hanging out with youth at sports games etc. Or when I feel like maybe I need to hang out with friends.

I'm maybe in too many studies, but right now I don't feel too overwhelmed with them. I think I'm gaining insight in all of them. In some of them I sit there learning, and in others I am the one that is teaching others the things I've already worked through. I'm glad I'm still learning though, we'll see how the fall goes with all this stuff I'm starting up. I of course have a whole different list of things I would like to start with the youth and young adults here. And it is killing me that I don't feel like I'm doing a heck of a lot of service in the community right now, but perhaps after leaving my last job, I might need a little break from it.
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