Coming into this new year, I, like many, have a sense of hope. If nothing else, it’s for the fact that 2020 is over! I mean, maybe we we’re still on the hill called 2020ISH, but perhaps it we’re on our way down, rather than still climbing.
Now I’m not sure if we’re on the bottom, top, bottom of the top, top of the bottom, or somewhere near Mordor in Middle Earth. Is this the Return of the King? Am I Frodo? Wherever we are, it’s weird.
Been a while. Not really a writer, but I’ve been compelled a bit lately. So bear with me.
Side note: I was midway through writing this blog when I found out about a Jarrid Wilson passing away Monday by suicide. Jarrid was a young pastor with a wife and young kids, so this hits me in a unique, close-to-home way on many fronts. The fact that he was who he was and still struggled, underscores the need to talk about this stuff. And the fact that suicide, depression, anxiety – they aren’t picky… they’ll come after anyone they can.
But it also reveals the need for real hope.
This last week we had the privilege of hosting one of our semi-yearly YP Lunches. At these we […]
*reposted from 2016 on Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2021 It’s a weird day we live in. As a […]
I kind of went the whole day today not really thinking about it… Today was Wednesday, so a lot of my day is focused on meeting with interns and preparing for youth. I mean, I thought about it a bit, looked at some pictures, shared my wife’s post… but it wasn’t until about 12:30am that it really hit me. I’m currently up late preparing for our Youth Pastors Lunch that we’re hosting (about 10 hours from the time I’m writing this), so naturally I’m thinking back to the one we did last April – the one where, just days before, we tragically lost some of our best friends, Josh & Vanessa Ellis, along with their baby Hudson.
A year ago today.
I guess I’m more vulnerable late at night… Suddenly I’m flooded with so many memories. The time Noelle and I preached some of our first messages ever at their camp 8 years ago (a camp at which they were both single – maybe I can take some of the credit for bringing them together? Maybe…). The time they told us at our house that they were pregnant. The time Noelle and I drove to their house – against their wishes – and told them we were pregnant. The many times we’d eat barely-decent happy hour and talk about our frustrations and joys with our youth ministries. So many good memories.
It sucks that we don’t get to have any more of these. No more Gibby whining that Hudson won’t play with him. No more hearing Vanessa’s super loud laugh. No more hearing Josh’s Homestar Runner voice.
But as much as Josh & Vanessa left us too early, they also left us with a lot. Every good thing about them was more than just a front, it was who they were. It was a disposition. As I’m reflecting on their lives and on this last year, here are a few dispositions they had that I’m reminded *again* to live by.
Don’t see Fifty Shades of Grey.
Ephesians 4:1-4 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
So you’ve probably seen the video going around lately of “Cosby’s reaction” to Victoria Osteen’s short exhortation at their church. Some guy thought he was doing Christians everywhere a great service by adding an old clip of Cosby saying, “That is the studpidest thing I have ever heard” to the end of the video. And the response has been pretty overwhelming in favor of Cosby’s side. YouTube comments have ranged from “That IS the dumbest thing I’ve heard in my life” to “I need a paper bag,” etc.
What’s most alarming to me is not the poor choice of words of Victoria Osteen (yes, just a poor choice of words – NOT heresy as some want to call it), but the haste in which many Christians shared this video. I’ve had bible college friends, pastor friends, people from high school, etc. share this video, all thinking that they were somehow helping people in their walks with Christ by doing so. In reality, though, they were causing great damage and disunity in the Body of Christ.
I have a few thoughts on this that I hope you’ll consider before being quick to side with Cosby (I’d actually love to hear Cosby’s actual thoughts on this).
It’s camp season right now for us, and it’s a huge part of what we build towards all year. Not only is it so much fun, but it is truly a life-changing experience. Those who’ve attended or served at a camp know this, because they’ve seen it firsthand. Every year we see students commit to Jesus, make new friends, have fun, and come home with a renewed passion to pursue God’s purpose for their lives.
That’s why it’s funny to me that year after year we encounter resistance from students and parents alike when it comes to camp. For whatever reason, they’ve chosen to not see the value of camp. Or, they say they can’t afford it because of the $$$ they just spent on new J’s, baseball camp, etc.
So, I figured I’d write a few reminders about Why CAMP is so Awesome:
1. It’s a BREAK from normal.
A lot of people say things like, “I shouldn’t have to go away to camp to connect with God…” The funny thing is, most of the people who say that are the ones who are stuck in routine, without purpose and completely disconnected from God. Something special happens when you break from your routine, turn off your phone (there’s no reception anyways) and take an extended period of time to awaken your physical and spiritual senses. This happens at camp.
2. It’s NOT convenient.
Camp costs money. It requires time off of work and time away from family. It takes planning and sacrifice. It’s not convenient, and it shouldn’t be. If church always has to be convenient, it’s going to translate down the road to a very weak faith. The reason we prioritize certain things is because we know that if we don’t, they’ll fall to a lower place where they shouldn’t be. If we’re not careful, we’ll make the things of God an afterthought rather than a priority. Placing something at a high priority shows that – though it may be difficult to maintain – it’s worth prioritizing. Make camp a priority!
I like to hype things that I believe in. When I first saw Space Jam in theaters in 6th grade, I was BLOWN AWAY. It was the best movie ever (Bill Murray was brilliant), with the best soundtrack ever. And I hyped it so hard. I mean, so hard that I brought my boombox to school with my Space Jam Soundtrack tape (I had the CD too, but I kept it at home so it wouldn’t get scratched) so that we could all listen to it at recess. And I didn’t even like basketball. Space Jam was something I loved so much that I couldn’t help but spread the word. Truth is, it wasn’t about Space Jam, the brand. It was about the experience it provided.
As young leaders, we buy in to lies a lot. Here’s a few I’ve seen, even caught myself in (particularly in the youth ministry world).
1. This is the way it’s supposed to be done. I used to actually think that all youth ministries / churches were supposed to do it one way. In college I was involved in a great youth ministry (some of my close friends work there today). Unfortunately, though, when you’re a part of something great, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what you’re doing is the way it should be done. I remember talking with some of our students a while back who had visited another youth ministry. They said things like, “They just don’t know how to do it right. They don’t get it.” I remember agreeing with them before realizing what I was doing.