Sunday, August 27, 2006

This must be how Paris Hilton feels

Friday night found me squashed between two people on a flight from Indy to Philly.

I don't really know how to set the stage for the encounter that took place on this plane, so I'll just tell it to you bluntly...The woman next to me read my journal. She read my journal. I was processing some events in my life and was reflecting on a certain experience when she interrupted me to ask a question about the sentence I was in the middle of writing. She read my journal. She unapologetically read my journal.

What would you have done if you were in my situation?

A) Politely answer her question, finish the sentence, and close the journal.
B) Briskly tell her it's none of her business.
C) Answer her question and rummage through her purse when she's in the bathroom.
D) Nothing. You deserved her nosiness. You shouldn't be writing in a private journal in a public area.

Do you have an option E to offer? I took the very bold and courageous option A.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

It's not what but who

Perhaps I'm a bit slower than the average youth pastor. I'm just beginning to realize that fun is not what, it's who. Students don't come because of the fun, crazy activity I've planned. They come because so-and-so is coming.

Earlier this month I showed a late night, outdoor movie at the church. Halfway through the movie a girl arrived and stood at the edge of the lawn searching the small crowd. I went over to greet her.

Without giving her scanning eyes a break, she said, "I'm just looking to see if anyone is here."

I was momentarily speechless. I, too, began scanning the crowd just in case the students I thought I saw were in fact a hallucination. Finally I asked, "What do you mean?"

She jerked out of her trance and looked at me dumbfounded. "You know," she said, "I'm trying to see if I know anyone." She didn't and decided to leave.

It's not what, it's who.

I currently have in my e-mail in-box a number of e-mails from students asking who has signed up for an upcoming music festival. They are not convinced they want to sign up until they know who else is going.

It's not what, it's who. While I found this initially frustrating, I'm beginning to see the benefits. Instead of spending my time planning big events, I can focus in on relationships. Then again I suppose I could become lazy. It seems like all I have to do is to ensure that a certain three students show up at church at 8 pm on a Friday and simply provide an onion and a dirty sock for them to play with and they'll come out in droves.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Adventures with Lord B.

At this time last week I was in Niagara Falls, NY with my middle schoolers for a missions trip. The majority of people who heard I was going to Niagara Falls for a missions trip offered similar sarcastic responses: "Really roughing it for the Lord!" "Gonna witness to tourists?" etc. However, anyone who has spent any time on the New York side of the falls know there is mission field here.

Prior to our trip I was told that the New York side of Niagara Falls was poverty stricken. I was given the statistics that between 70-80 % of all buildings in this area were abandoned. Quite honestly, I assumed this statistic was an wasn't. I've been in a lot of big cities. I've come to expect the run down neighborhoods, the crime infested sections of the city, etc. What made Niagara Falls so different was that the entire city was run down. There were no nice areas. No thriving areas. Just deserted building after deserted building.

After working in a soup kitchen, my students and I went for a prayer walk (something very new for them--this was the first time the majority of them ever prayed out loud). As we were walking through the streets in extremely high temperatures (the heat index was 105), some of the students decided that they wanted to pray that people would find transportation so they could drive to their jobs instead of having to walk. More specifically, they prayed that people could get cars with air conditioning to find relief from the intense heat.

Ten minutes into our walk, we met Lord B. That's really his name. Lord B. Lord B. was a skinny black kid with a feeding tube coming out of his stomach which he no longer needed but no one had bothered to remove. He claimed to be eleven, though he looked more like nine. He wanted to hang out with my kids. After all, he explained, "Lord B. doesn't pass up a chance to hang out with some chicks."

So, wanting to stay close to the "chicks," he decided to finish out the prayer walk with us. After listening to the students pray for the government and that people would find jobs, Lord B. announced that he wanted to pray.

With his eyes wide open he looked to the sky and shouted, "Dear Lord! Please get rid of all these cars. Get these cars off the street so we don't ruin the atmosphere. Get rid of cars so we can get rid of the pollution and save our ozone layer..." Lord B. went on and explained to God how pollution worked in a way that would have made Al Gore proud.

After he shouted his "Amen," we were strangely quiet. The students were a little rattled that this scrawny kid from a shack of a house and a useless feeding tube was praying about the environment.

I'm glad all of my prayers don't get answered. I'm glad that most of my prayers don't get answered. Because sometimes, I don't really know what I'm supposed to be praying for.