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Be Not Afraid

Wednesday, December 19, 2007
So we are less than a week until Christmas and I still have a lot to do, but I am feeling like I am done with the work I need to do before Christmas. Yesterday I got an email from Youth Specialties that talked about youth ministry and it really was a good description of how it is. The story talked about the angels proclaiming "Be not afraid." During the Christmas story. Let me share my favorite part.

Let's be honest: working with teenagers, no matter how much you love them and are called to this ministry, is cause for fear. They're a messy lot. The work is never done. The needs are never fully met. The demands and expectations of youth ministry pull in every direction, often in opposition with one another. If you live into this calling, sooner or later, you'll get hurt; you'll get ignored; you'll be misunderstood; you'll be blamed; you'll be misrepresented; and you'll screw up.

Isn't that the truth. The work isn't done. Sure, right now I'm not doing a whole lot because I have Christmas set before I go. But as soon as I get back, I've got a lock in, another trip for work (Perkins School of Youth Ministry) then I have to be thinking about another Sr. High weekend, a Jr. High weekend, and confirmation. I've got a stack of stuff I'm taking home to be working on and looking through while I am home. The work truly is never done.

But looking into the future, I am excited. I am not afraid of all that is looming in the distance. I can't be afraid if my kids get mad at me, I just have to deal with the cards I get dealt. In some cases, ministry like this has to be focused on putting out fires sometimes. I have to be prepared, yes, but unexpected things are going to happen from time to time and I just have to take them how they go.

The email was a good reminder to me to take it all one day at a time. So from me to you, I hope that you take the time this season to be not afraid. It is well worth it.

Feed the Need

Monday, December 10, 2007
Each year, the youth groups of the city put on a homeless feeding program at a downtown church the 2nd Sunday of December. Last year we served 180 guests, and had about 180 volunteers. We felt like that was pretty much the cap for what we could do.

Then yesterday happened. We had over 300 volunteers, and served 366 guests. It was both heart warming to be in service, and heart breaking that there were so many there that had to be served.
The youth directors will debrief on Wednesday but there are certainly going to have to be some changes if we keep expanding.

Now only a few major projects before Christmas! It is certainly trying really hard to sneak up on me!

my advice on the Golden Compass

So I had a comment on my last post, a woman asking me if it is appropriate for her 10 & 11 year old to see the movie or read the books.

Me personally, if I had kids, I wouldn't worry so much about it. But that is because I read all the books and saw the movie on Friday. I think that a lot of the discussions surrounding the book do need to happen with adults. Discussions about the church abusing power through centuries, discussions about how we put God in a box and forget that God is in everything.

So... here's my advice. Read the books, see the movie, then make an informed decision.

In the meantime, check out these interviews with Philip Pullman on beliefnet. I think they say a lot about Pullman's intentions, and really opened my eyes to even more of the theology that weaves its way through the books. Fascinating stuff really...

Why I'm not afraid of the Golden Compass...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I finished the third book in the His Dark Materials series last night. As I finished, it was somewhat bittersweet as I had to leave the characters behind, much like finishing the final Harry Potter book. I'll try not to spoil too much, but be aware that if you read this post I might let some of the plot slip out.

Last night as I sat for a few minutes after I finished the book, I was really struck by the reality of our world weaved into a story of infinite worlds. I was struck by a sense of love and compassion that was found when ordinary children had a chance to do extraordinary things.

Maybe for Christians who see things as black or white, (we all have issues that we can only see right or wrong) this is a difficult story. One where the followers of the religion really mess with reality. One where "God" (who really isn't at all like our God) is put in a box to rot so that the followers can carry out their own maniacal plans.

As I was reading the end of the last book, I had one quote repeating over and over and over in my mind from Rob Bell. "What if it isn't that the story of creation happened, but that it happens..." Through a fanciful tale that had its dark moments, I feel somehow closer to understanding the divine and how the divine works within me. I am wanting to seek to be in constant communication with my soul. I want to discover the parts of me that produce goodness, courage, tenacity, overcoming adversity...

So really, I am not afraid of the Golden Compass. I think it is a shame that Christians are jumping on the bandwagon. Most I know that are planning to boycott haven't even given the books a look. I am always seeking to know more, to open my eyes to new ways to see and understand God. And I know, that last night as I finished and really felt that I was beginning to know that the story creation happens, that I am a better person for having read the series.

God doesn't ask us to do things that are easy for us. God asks us to step out in faith, not fear, and get the work done. I saw that story throughout the tale of this novel, and I am compelled to understand more, to work harder, and to really pay attention to where God is in the midst of it all.

So maybe I won't take my youth as a group to the movie, but I'll be there just after 12 this Friday to see what Hollywood has done with this world of the Golden Compass, I just hope it lives up to a sliver of the imaginary worlds that I've been living in through reading the books. I'm ready to answer questions, to ask some hard ones, and to really dive in to challenging my youth to be ok with things that other Christians may not be. Call me crazy, but I think God gave us brains for a reason...

what i've been doing lately...

Monday, December 03, 2007
So each Monday for the last two weeks and the next two, I am doing a complete overhaul on my office. As any youth director knows, it is really easy to accumulate stuff. Curriculum, random things that youth give you, cds, videos, props for games, etc.

I have decided that it is really important for someone to go through the youth office oh say... once every 10 years. So I'm doing it. I tried to take a picture, but my battery on my camera just died, but I am halfway through the shelfs. I've given a lot of random things to other people in the office, I've got a box of books I'll never ever use, I have sections of books on the shelves now (Sunday night shelf, confirmation, videos, bible studies, etc.) I'm halfway done, and the half that is left looks like a bomb hit it, but I think a lot of it will be pretty easy to sort through.

Other things... enjoying www.quarterlife.com and can't wait til it is on NBC. Awesome for an online video thing to end up getting picked up by a major network.

Rose bowl! Illinois is going. If I weren't a poor youth director, I would SO be there. That would be awesome. You better believe I'll be watching that game and wearing orange on New Years Day.

Feed the Need is this weekend. I'll have about 20 kids with 200 other youth and youth directors from ABQ all helping to serve the homeless downtown. It will be a crazy but awesome experience like it always is.

I'm almost done with the His Dark Materials series. I will finish it and see the Golden Compass this weekend so that I can be informed about it when parents and other church folk ask me what all the hub bub is about. I'll likely have a post about that when I finish it up. I'm quite fascinated really, but for reasons relating to my knowledge of early Christian thought... I can't wait to finish this final book.

Ok time to get back to work... planning Bible studies and confirmation, oh joy!
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