Youth Has No Age

Seventh grade is kind of a big deal for a Baptist kid. You finally cross over into the youth group. The youth sit together in church. They go on late night excursions. They go to camp. They talk about dating and drugs. You finally lose the “child” label and begin to settle into a new classification, feeling one step closer to a grownup.

Of course, when you first transition to youth, you’re the low man on the totem pole. And here’s the kicker: Daniel and I just transitioned to youth!!

After nine years of children’s ministry, we’ve graduated to the big kids. It is still new, and each week, we work out more kinks, but it’s a little intimidating if we’re being honest. For starters, the word “bong” never came up in children’s ministry! Buckle up!

When I was in eighth grade, we got a new youth minister. I loved my first one. He planned fun nights where we made “the world’s largest banana split” in rain gutters or “the world’s largest milkshake”- stirred with oars in a (new) trashcan. We all signed the oars, and he managed to insert “oar not” into each lesson. He encouraged us to memorize Scripture. He took us rock climbing. I was devastated when he felt the Lord’s calling to another church. I didn’t think anyone would ever match what he was for us. But then we met Jess.

My youth pastor, Jess, was the first person to teach me about quiet time with the Lord. I still remember him encouraging me to read Proverbs since it has 31 chapters, and it would help me get on a regular routine of reading the Bible every day. It’s advice I’ve continued to pass along. Jess solved several fights between me and my BFF- usually over silly things like our mutual attraction to a boy at camp. Who we may or may not have given the number to Pizza Hut to instead of our own. He saw me through my first break up and my last before I met Daniel. He was goofy with us and serious with us, depending on what we needed. He showed up to our dance performances. He showed us what it meant to fast and to pray. He was real with us.

I was skeptical when he came to our youth group. (He was an Aggie, so I didn’t completely count him out!) But ultimately, I didn’t want change. I didn’t want to accept someone new. But the Lord brought our youth group a true gift. And here I am, stepping into some incredible shoes of the youth ministers before us, wondering how we will be accepted and how I can continue the amazing work they started.

The good news? God knows. God placed this calling on our hearts, and while that doesn’t mean it will be easy, it means He’s prepared our places. The youth now were my children a few years ago. I know the younger versions of the teenagers that now sit in the youth room. We’ve got some catching up to do, but our time, so far, has been sweet.

I’m moving from teaching David and Goliath to David and Bathsheba. I’m adjusting to God loves you, even when you make mistakes, to God loves you even though you’ve made mistakes. I’m helping them prepare for the day they will have to stand up for their faith. I’m helping them define their faith. And one day, they might just get me to go to youth camp!

Our youth group from almost twenty years ago (yikes!) was made up of some of my favorite people. We’ve seen each other through high school, college,  marriage, babies, heartbreak, moves, missions, and career paths.  Sometimes through Facebook, sometimes though real life. It’s a special bond that I can’t explain. I’m excited, and a little scared, to be in this new role, but I’m so grateful to be a part of it.

1 Timothy 4:12 says “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (CSB) Daniel and I are young in this avenue of church ministry, but we will work hard to set an example for the students God has placed in our youth room. We will work hard to teach our youth that they have examples to offer to those behind them as well. And we will work REALLY hard to stay up past 10pm.

Pray for us, please!

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

 

Take this Heart of Stone

It would be so easy not to care. To put up a wall to block out the difficult. To refuse to let people in. People hurt you. Their stories scar you. They change you, and change is hard.

But it can be so good, and the journey, that part in the middle, makes it worth it.

A year ago, my heart put up a little wall. I lost a patient and a friend. I lost the little girl that taught me about accent nails. The little girl that reminded me that it’s okay to ask questions and get to know more than just medical history. The little girl that made me pictures and personalized bracelets, and who made the doctor a bracelet that said “Poo” because she ran out of letters for his name. She loved to make people laugh, and she was so good at it.

I didn’t want to know someone that well again. It hurt. But I’m not good at my job from far away. I’m better when I let my guard down a little. Empathy goes a long way.

We’ve had a lot of sadness lately at work. Outside of the hospital walls, very few know the weight of what we see on a daily basis. Some days, I wish I didn’t know either. It would be so easy to avoid it. I don’t want to be invited into someone else’s pain, especially when it’s real and deep.

Maybe you don’t work in the hospital, and I’ve scared you away. You don’t want to feel either. But you have a Facebook newsfeed, and there are plenty of horrific stories there, too. I don’t think you need to click on every sad story of sickness, abuse, freak accidents, and death, but I also think you shouldn’t put your head in the sand when it comes to what’s going on around you. I promise I’m not going to get political, but don’t close your eyes.

The Bible says:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify him.” 

Isaiah 61:1-3 CSB

Apathy hardens your heart. It rejects the type of love Jesus gave freely. In Ezekiel 36:26, the Bible tells us God will give us hearts of flesh for our hearts of stone. This tells me He doesn’t want us to have hard hearts. Hard hearts don’t sit with women at the well. Hard hearts turn blind eyes to blind eyes. Hard hearts don’t welcome children to their laps. Hard hearts don’t feed the hungry. If we were to all become apathetic, evil would win. We would not love our neighbors. We would not practice grace. We would eventually shut out God, because we would feel like we had it covered. No one to care about, no one to pray for. We wouldn’t care enough about what was happening around us to search Scripture for answers. If we don’t have ashes, what will we trade for a “crown of beauty”? If we don’t mourn, what will we trade for “festive oil”? We will be left in a ho-hum life with no color. No grief, but no celebration. We have to let our guards down.

I let my guard down, and the end was devastating. But the middle made it incredibly sweet. In the middle, there are syringe paint wars, there are countless crafts and projects, there are stories that make my sides hurt from laughing. There is Life- in my case the board game, but also LIFE! I miss her, but she made me better. I am continually reminded to be that for new friends. Paint nails, sit and stay for a while, share cookies, share a box of tissues, know their pets’ names. Soften.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” -1 Corinthians 15:58 CSB