Sunday, July 28, 2013

Online Hiatus

You may, or probably did not, notice I haven't been active on the internets the past week and a half. There is a series of good explanations for that, as well as, some stories about it all. So bear with me as I show my last bit of time.

Amber got home from camp. So on the 18th, I headed to her house hours away and spent a few days with her and her family. It was really nice because I like that area of the world and I sort of miss it when I'm not there. It's way greener than it is here in Lindsay and I like me some green! It was really a nice mini-vacation to recoop and prepare for Falls Creek with my youth group. You see, it all worked out very nicely because Amber wanted to go with me to camp. But I'll get to that.

That Saturday, we headed to Ada to move Amber and Ashlie's furniture to the new house in Ada. It was a good work-out and even more fun just getting to know the family and such. From there we headed out to Ardmore to stay with my family for a couple of days. We had supper with my parents at Two Frogs, stayed with my mema and just relaxed. The next day, Sunday, we got my sister and her friend and headed up to Lindsay to get ready for camp. By 11:00pm, we were all ready to get going to Falls Creek!

It's my first time being a youth pastor. It was my first time going to camp with a baptist church, which  means it was also my first time going to Falls Creek. It's a very different environment than I'm used to in terms of the freedom each particular group has. I wasn't used to that in a camp so the first full day was a little rough. By Wednesday, it was all a well-oiled machine and the students really started getting something out of it. I learned a lot of things to do and not to do. I began to understand why people enjoyed being there so much. And most importantly, I learned why I love what I do so much. Each person I teach is different. And they ARE people. They aren't just students or just kids. They have minds, wills, and emotions of their own.

I was grateful for Amber being there because she is PHENOMENAL with girls. I'm a typical guy. I don't speak with tenderness very well and girls of a certain age need that. So I have dropped the ball plenty of times in that regard. Amber is awesome where I am not so great. I watched the woman I love show me how to love her even more that week. We were there for the kids but got to know each other even more. I could not have asked for better sponsors either. God was all over every thing about that week. It's always going to be in my memory as a good week.

Amber and I had to leave early Friday, though. Our friends Kaleb and Micah had their wedding Saturday. Micah had her bachelorette party that Amber went to and I was a groomsman. Without going into too much detail, it was all awesome and we're so happy for them!

If you think a few days can't change your life for the better, just wait. It happened to me. It can happen to you too. I was shown a picture of God's ferocious love for His church. I saw true love. I see what I want to do. God is revealing things to me that I wouldn't have seen had I simply not gone through this summer. I'm grateful for EVERY THING that has happened. God is good.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Death, be not proud

"Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die."
-John Donne

Of all things right now, this is the poem I'm obsessed with. 

It isn't about you

I read this today. I had heard it. I had seen it. I knew who said it before I had finished reading it. Yet, the words still seemed new to me. So why do I care for it? I care because of the last line; "It was never between you and them anyway."

I've been called a lot of things. Prideful, arrogant, selfish, conceited, self-absorbed, and other things I can't say in a public forum. And those charges, at one time or another in my life, have been true. But it's been a couple of years since. The strange thing is, these accusations continue to fly at me. Did others not get the memo? Did they not see what's up now? Do they not recognize faux-arrogance or sarcasm? I don't know but here's what I do know: God paid for my pride as much as for their judgement.

Forgiveness isn't a person-to-person thing. It is holy. Forgiveness doesn't happen outside of God in any capacity whatsoever. Mother Teresa's words ring true. "Do _____ anyway." Live you life despite of what others say about you or to you. Because your forgiveness of them is not for them; it is for you. Consequently, your freedom is not for you; it's for others.

Forgive others and show what freedom is; freedom is forgiving others. Although in our culture it isn't "proper" to say it like this, what happens is God forgive someone. You don't. The Pharisees were right; only God has the power to forgive sins. That why Jesus did it. That's why we say it; because Jesus forgives through us.

If you've wronged me, I forgive you. If I've wronged you, I hope you can forgive me because I've already forgiven myself. If you harbor that, it is only to your destruction. Be light to others. Shine.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Assisted Living

I've got a great church. They are giving, they love the Lord and they will do anything short of sin to help anyone in trouble. In stark contrast, I do it all myself. I'm giving but I'm shrewd. I'm also extremely prideful. I'd rather die than ask for help. I'd rather get lost than ask for directions. (Amber nods her head yes in agreement from six hours away.) 

In short, I hate asking for help. So I had to ask my pastor for help yesterday. He was receptive to everything I said and agreed that, currently, I cannot make ends meet and make a big contribution to the youth group. So he called me today and said the personnel committee wants to meet with me on Sunday and talk over how we can get things resolved. 

 It's the most awkward thing in the world to write a letter to your church's personnel committee basically asking for money. It's like I was asking for another fix. I really didn't like it. But then again, I don't like asking for anything. I'm the guy that tries to slip that $20 back in mom's purse after she hands it to me. I once got sad because my bank card declined (it was broken) and Amber had to pay for movie tickets on a date night. Yeah, I'm THAT guy. Money is a big deal to me. For me, it's security. It's comfort. I know the value of money because I've never had it. And when I don't have any, it's a devastating thing for me. 

So I wrote the awkward letter with my monthly expenses, my future education certificate expenses, and future goals, gave them MY numbers (might as well be number) and reasoned. I won't divulge anything from that because it's private, of course. 

When Clay called me today, I just wept after we hung up our phones. "God provided again". Just like He always does. 

In all this, I can feel God reminding of His words. 

rdo not be anxious about anything, sbut in everything by prayer and supplication twith thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And uthe peace of God, vwhich surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Phil. 4:6,7 ESV)


25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matt. 6:25-34)

I'm seeking His kingdom and He is still providing for me. He's a good dad. 
Happy Fathers day, by the way. (In two days!)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Being An Adult

So, you could say that I've been an adult for about 12 days now. I've gotten a school job, I've held a pastor's job for about 6 months, I've taken a long trip by myself, I've paid my own bills, and I've been consistently going to be bed before 11:30. Adulthood is in full swing! And these are all pretty up-beat things. These are the things we all look forward to, or live if you're older than me, in life. Next step is marriage, kids, raising kids, paying for kids' college, and (hopefully)retirement, spoiling grandkids, etc... But I'm not even close to that stuff yet. I still have to worry about class, getting certified, balancing work and love, discovering "free time" (Blogging doesn't count, nor do the hours I put at the church. Even this is a thing I do bent towards ministry in the out-and-out.)

In the end, I wish I were still in college. If I had done what I was really supposed to, I would be for one more year. Block three and student teaching. And I'd also be miserable. I know that what I'm doing is what I'm supposed to do. I know it's how it's supposed to go. And I know that, not because it's mind-numbingly difficult (and it is!) but I know that because I have a peace that comes with it. I don't feel pressed to make payments or whatever. And why should I? God has been providing for me every since I got here! If I've been in a tight spot, He has covered me. Someone hands me $50 bucks in Sunday church. Someone brings a washer and dryer. Someone gives me a fridge. I've been blessed, not so I can succeed, but so I can bless others. And that's the whole reason why I'm even in Lindsay! The church brought me here. My school job only came after I committed, and MOVED, to Lindsay. Through this whole things, three different verses (and stories) have come to me over and over.

 1) Abram and his big move! "The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others." (Genesis 12:1,2 NLT) Abram had to leave everything he had, everything he knew and follow God into the wilderness. God started something magnificent through Him and Abram had to have faith, though failing many times, that God WOULD do those things.

 2) What love is. "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless! But love will last forever." (1 Cor. 13:7,8) You hear it at weddings. Really, sweet right? But in my life, this isn't just for Amber or my family any one one particular person. What does Jesus say to the Pharisees in Matthew? "...'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' The entire law and the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:37-40) and again, "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" (Matt. 25:40) Love is more than romantic and more than family. It is desiring the best for those around you, and we're all called to do that. I'm fortunate enough to have a youth group and a band full of students to do that for. I don't have kids yet. So, for now, God has called me to this region for these kids. And I have to remember that when I get discouraged, because it happens frequently.

 3) It isn't about me "Who is this who darkens counsel with words lacking knowledge?" (Job 38:1) Yesterday, I yelled at God. Well, I screamed at him. And I was cussing mad. Things weren't going my way and I didn't take to that. So I assumed I knew better than God. He quickly showed me otherwise. He basically said, "Remember Job? Keep going, kid." And so I did. And things have been fine. I struggle and try to kick out of His grasp but He holds on to me tighter. Sometimes He lets me out of His arms and try to cold world by myself but then I whine and He picks me up. So I tie that all around to say that, sometimes being adult means being a kid. It means staying in Dad's arms and just letting Him take care of the day. And I'm learning that more and more every day. He shows me how to love others with His kind of love. He shows me how to love Amber and my family with His kind of love and He tutors me in His ways, because I don't stand a chance without His teaching. So... Yeah... Pray for me!
-thumbs up-

Monday, June 3, 2013

Post-Grad Struggles and God's Grace

I’m sitting in the Fine Arts break room at East Central. On my computer typing. But I’m not doing homework, I’m typing a blog. And I’m here, and not at the apartment, because I don’t live there anymore. I don’t live in Ada anymore. I live in Lindsay, Oklahoma. I’m 23. I’m living by myself. And it would be all awesome if I were married yet or if there were more people my age there that weren’t into drinking or doing meth. The truth is, in Lindsay, right now, I’m lonely. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t have Internet. Nothing wrong with that either. I am alone, but at the same time I know I’m not alone because the Lord is with me always. In the backdrop of this move to Lindsay, God has been ministering to me since day one. He told me to be patient; I wanted until June 1 to move in. Done. Now it seems like my world is collapsing upon me. I don’t have too much money, the church is wanting to cut some of what they’re paying me because I’m not driving from Ada anymore. On top of all this, Amber is gone to work at camp so my closest confidant is six hours away. My family is an hour away. All of my friends are also an hour away in any direction. On the surface, I should be freaking out or institutionalized. But, like I said, God is ministering to me in this mess. My evening reading was Psalms 1-10. I felt led to read the Psalms aloud with intensity, like I was preaching them. The basic theme through the first ten Psalms is that God is with you, no matter how your enemies are. No matter how many stand against you, God is in the midst. And so by the tenth Psalm, my voice was ragged and I was almost in tears. I wasn’t broken. But I was at rock bottom. God healed me last night. In His great mercy, He made me whole. He made me work. This morning, I woke up and got a plan of action together. I applied at IBC Bank in Lindsay, I got my resume, changed my address, mailed my letters to Amber and got a PO Box, paid rent and made it to Ada. Before all this, however, my car didn’t start. So I had to be patient. I tried to move it to a good spot to get a charge from Clay, who was on his way. In the midst of pushing it, the car just started. God moved again. As I was filling out my application at IBC , mom texted me some great news we had been praying about before. I won’t mention it now but if she ends up getting on at this place, I’ll write that story because it’s powerful. I’m lonely and financially beat up. And I’m right where God wants me. I’m helpless and so He can work through what I don’t have. I can’t even take care of myself. God is here. So pray for me as I keep you all in mind. Amber, I love you. I’ll try, again, to post more here. I don’t have the interwebs at the house so it’ll be a little difficult. Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be the glory.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The First Two Months

For a long time, I debated on whether I would even be in the ministry. I was going to pursue law at OU. Then I was going to teach music as a band director. Then I was going to do church music, then back to band directing. And now I'm in the one profession I said I'd never enter: youth ministry. And I love it. It's varied but has a formula. It is detached (especially since until May, I live an hour away from the church) but so close. And it fills my mind but doesn't stress me out. I love youth ministry. But the average job-span of a youth pastor at any single church is almost 2 years. Two years? It takes a congregation four to fully trust a pastor. So how anyone do anything worthwhile in two? My youth pastor has been at my home church in Ardmore for... 16 years? Enough time to influence multiple classes of students and give the world some really good thinkers. So how did a man who didn't even want to do youth ministry end up in it? Like I said, I was going to study law in high school. I was a heathen at this time. I switched to band directing, still a heathen. After I got saved my sophomore year of college, I wanted to do church music; be a worship leader. But eventually I fell out of wanting to do that and switched back to wanting to do band directing. I did that switch because this summer I helped out with Plainview High School's trumpets and then I went to Noble and helped their trumpets. The next week was ECU's band camp and I served as drum major that season. So for three straight weeks, I was teaching and leading band students. I was so ready to teach high school students about music! All of a sudden though, God changed my heart. Right before Christmas break, Randy Townshend, my BSU director, got a call from Clay Hicks- pastor of Erin Springs Baptist in Lindsay. We had never met Clay and had certainly never heard of Erin Springs. Literally after getting off the phone with him, I walked into Randy's office and he told me about the opening. Everything in me told me to take the post. I got Clay's number and called him to set up a meeting. I met with him in Lindsay a few days after Christmas and then met with the board the next week. I was hired on at the beginning of January. When I first got onto Erin Spring's campus, there was a real peace there. My spirit was calmed. The funny thing about this feeling is that when two of my good friends came with me one Sunday morning, they felt it too. We all three left Lindsay knowing God was moving there. My first Wednesday there, God put five kids there. The next week ten, then fifteen, then SEVENTEEN!. We've been averaging about 14 a week now from January to March. God is moving in Erin Springs and I pray that He chooses to use me long term. There are many outliers that I have to deal with; some I am very happy to and some that bring me sorrow. I don't want to leave Ada. It is my home and I love it. Yes, even the crappy light on 14th and Mississippi. But God is calling me away from there. If things work how I am picturing them, it will be for the very best.However, if God chooses an alternate and better way than what I am thinking I will thank Him all the more. He knows what is best! Pray for me and I'll try to keep consistent on posting what is going on at ESBC. Again, and I love saying this... God is moving. His will be done.