Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hesitancy #3: Guitar

When I was in ninth grade, I made one of my rare New Year’s Resolutions and decided I wanted to learn to play guitar. Seven years later, I’m really not very good at it. I mean, not as good as I should be.

Reasons why (aka my excuses)
• I can’t figure out what strum pattern to use for a song. Once someone else has started, I can usually keep up and do just fine. But I tend to use one of the same two or three for every song, which obviously doesn’t work.
• I can’t strum and sing at the same time. Well, I can for like three songs. But only because I’ve practiced enough. The rest of the time I either screw up the guitar part (usually that one) or sometimes mess up the pitch/pace/words of the song.
• My fingers have trouble reaching anything beyond two frets away. That is a big problem for stuff like F#m, which is in some songs I really love and want to play.
• I’m not a good singer. Ok, this might seem kind of irrelevant to how I am able to play guitar, but when I can’t so one part, I kind of lose confidence, which brings me to the next point…
• I have no confidence on the guitar. When I am up in front of people playing my guitar I usually want to cry or crawl in a hole or occasionally just let every laugh at how much I suck.

This summer, with YouthWorks, I told the guy who interviewed me that I had a little bit of guitar experience, but that I never really play in front of people. I explained to him—as I’ve explained to others before and others since—that I use guitar as a way of communing with God, of putting myself in His presence. I prefer playing in my room with the door closed when as few people are home as possible. I enjoy begin able to just sit before Him and to allow the words to flow through me and impact me. I can’t do that very well in front of people. It’s just not my thing.

Well, in the way that only God can work, I ended up being hired as the lead guitar player for the YouthWorks site in Logan, WV. Sweet. I spent the next few weeks wanting to practice and get better, but not really having the time.

Reasons I didn’t have time (more excuses)
• I play ultimate Frisbee for Saint Louis University (SLU) and we were hoping to qualify for Nationals. Then we did qualify for Nationals. So we were working extra hard to do well there (13th in the nation, not too shabby for a school our size)
• I was taking 18 credit hours and things got hectic there for a while. Projects, papers, and the like.
• I led a spring break mission trip, which meant meetings and prep beforehand and then no actual spring break. It was an awesome experience, but it definitely took up a lot of time.
• I also had to write five talks in preparation for the summer, when I would be giving one a night throughout the week.
• I was involved in Monday night Prayer and Praise, a Women’s Bible study, a small group at church, and intramural sports.

Long story short: I didn’t really practice all that often. I got to training in Philadelphia directly off a plane from Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. The first time all the future worship leaders sat down to play, I became extremely overwhelmed. “These people are all better than me. I’m screwed.” My thought process continued like this throughout that half hour or so. I left the jam session and immediately went into the bathroom to cry it out. Crap.

During prep week in Logan, before the youth arrived, I labored to figure out songs I could handle that were relevant to my talks that the youth would know or at least could follow. I kind of failed. A couple of our adult leader evaluations after the first week of programming talked about how we needed a stronger singer/guitar player to lead worship. Crap again.

Well, things changed drastically when there was an abrupt staff change. Within 24 hours, two out of the four staff left and two new individuals joined us as we began our second week on our own. As always, God knows what He is doing. He sent us Krista, who played guitar.

I was overjoyed. That first week had really broken my spirit in terms of worship. I felt like I had let everyone down, especially the youth, which is the LAST thing I would every want to do. I thought that I was getting in the way of them praising Him instead of opening the door to a stronger connection with Him. Which is what I told my boss’s boss when she informed me that I would still be lead guitar even with Krista there. Well, I kind of told her that between tears of fear, frustration, and uncertainty (here we go again with me crying about guitar).

Eventually, when I professed my undying love for not playing guitar in front of people, it was decided that Krista would take over guitar for at least that week, and then we would go from there.

I spent the week getting over my stupid fear and realizing that I had to just swallow my pride (a theme of the summer and now my life, by the way). By week 4 I was generally back on my feet and started playing backup guitar. And no, that doesn’t mean it was too much easier. It was definitely great to have Krista taking the lead, but the one time she looked at me and said “You lead this one, please” before a song I had never played before, my heart essentially stopped and I couldn’t even remember what a G chord looked like.

All this goes to say: I have no confidence playing guitar in front of people. But a LOT of churches want the youth minister to do some sort of worship for the youth. I’m not ready for that. I might never be.

Sure, I might be able to find a youth to lead worship. That can be really empowering for them. Unless, of course, they’re anything like me. I can’t really count on having an awesome guitar-playing, confident high school student with a decent voice in my youth group.

At this point I’m still playing guitar, though it took me a solid month or more to pick it back up after the summer, that’s how broken I felt. I’m moving forward (I even got roped into playing backup for a retreat commissioning ceremony and I only kind of screwed up), but I’m not ready to sit in an interview and tell them that I play guitar. If this means I don’t get hired, it will be difficult and it will suck. But I’m not ready. And for now, I am working with that and through that because I believe God will lead me to where I need to be.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hesitancy #2: Theology

This one is pretty big. While the previous hesitancy is something that hindered me at first, this is still a huge concern for me, one that I’m sure will be around for a while.

You see, I don’t know a whole lot about theology. My own theology, first of all, is still in the making. My core faith is in Jesus: in His saving love, His unending grace, His beautiful joy, and His promise of peace. A large part of what I believe also comes from my assertion that I need to see Christ in EVERY person and to treat them as such. This involves how I relate to people, how I serve the broken and rejected, and how I treat every person with whom I come into contact. I also believe that we have a God who comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable (thank you, Shane Claiborne).

Other than that, I’m not necessarily the most theologically developed individual in the world. Let’s face it, I find Thomas Aquinas, Erasmus, and Voltaire a bit over my head. I’m only mildly interested in John Wesley, Paul Tillich, and Thomas Merton. I really have no idea what systematic theology, exegesis, hypostatic union, or eschatology mean. Alright, I admit that most high school students won’t be concerned with these things, but that’s not the point.

Probably my biggest fear in youth ministry is that I won’t be able to make a difference in the lives of the youth. So what do I do when the big issues come up? When they ask how an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God lets stuff like wars and natural disasters and genocide happen? When they bring up God killing people in the Old Testament? When they ask me about my stance on hell, divorce, drinking, homosexuality, and more? How do I adequately discuss consubstantiation VS transubstantiation, infant VS adult baptism, women in ministry, or the role of church in state? Some of those can be make or break for a high school youth on the edge of finding his or her faith in God. What happens when I don’t have the answer?

Of course I know that I don’t always have to have the answer, that there are tons of resources, that I could talk to my pastor or a mentor if I were questioned, that I could investigate it with the youth by my side. But there are definitely things that I should know that I just don’t. Which is why seminary would be helpful.

As I thought about my calling for those first few days, I had this image of myself in front of a group of fifteen youth, asking if they had any questions about a lesson I had just given. One of them lays out this really relevant and eloquent question, and I don’t know the answer. I’m standing in front of them, and I really have no idea, not even an educated guess. This picture is enough to scare me a little, to make me rethink youth ministry.

There’s not a hard and fast way to get rid of this obstacle. It will take time, energy, and faith to move to the point where I’m not terrified by this image. And I am sure that something like this will happen at some point. For now, I will try to read some of those theologians, if only abbreviated versions. I will try to find the strength to ask myself those deep, difficult questions so that I will not only be ready for the challenge of some curios youth, I will also be ready for my own testing, for my own strengthening of faith.

From "Peanuts" by Charles Schultz

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hesitancy #1: Denomination

As I previously mentioned, when I sat down with Ryan to discuss my calling, I had (I thought) a solid list of reasons why I could not be a youth minister. He pretty much shot them down easily, but I haven’t been able to let go of them quite so flawlessly. Oh, and these are in no particular order. So here goes, with one of the big ones: my denomination.

I was brought up Catholic (a story for another day), but this didn’t really have a big role in the origins of my faith. Quite the opposite, I would say. It was more of an obligatory attendance, with my parents dragging me along each Sunday. What eight-year-old wants to wake up early to get dressed mice to sit and listen to something that is way over her head? Not I.

But in seventh grade, right after I started believing on God for real and having a relationship with Him, a friend invited me to her Protestant church. I kept going back and there was a fading in/fading out process where I went to the Mass less and less and went to United Memorial Christian Church (UMCC) more and more.

UMCC was the place where I first started to realize the importance of community and accountability in a gathering of believers. It was a Disciples of Christ (DOC) Church, a small denomination that tends to be pretty middle of the road, not too liberal but not too conservative, with elements of both in the services and in the way it approaches outreach and ministry. I enjoyed the DOC denomination and it definitely led me to better understand my faith. It also ushered me entirely into Protestantism by the 10th grade.

During my senior year, I also went to a nondenominational church on a weekly basis for their Wednesday night youth group. They had a worship band and a really passionate and dynamic youth minister, and it was a really refreshing experience to see students from a lot of different social groups on fire for Christ.

When I drove ten and a half hours and began going to college in St. Louis, the church searching began again. Freshman year I did not have a car and most of my friends were Catholic, so I ended up going to the church on campus for their weekly Mass, since it felt wrong and out of place not to go to anything on Sundays. But though I felt God more there than I had at Mass as a child, I knew that the Catholic Church wasn’t the place for me.

I spent some time at the beginning of sophomore year (when I had a car again) visiting a few churches. I started with DOC ones, since I had a background there. I spent a few months at one place, but it didn’t really fit my needs, so I hopped around again. At the end of the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I decided to really seek out the right church for me. I visited nondenominational, DOC, Presbyterian, and Methodist before I stumbled upon The Gathering United Methodist Church (UMC).

I have been going to The Gathering for a little over a year now, and I have found the small groups, worship, and community very fulfilling. I really love this church. The pastor is passionate, dynamic, and relevant. The people are kind and involved. The service does a great job integrating the old with the new, particularly in the music and in communion.

The problem with this whole situation is that I don’t really associate myself with any particular denomination. I know some of what I’m not: I’m not Catholic, I’m not Southern Baptist, I’m not Episcopalian, I’m not Lutheran. But know what I’m not doesn’t mean I know what I am. I could be happy at a DOC church, a UMC church, a nondenominational church, or maybe something I haven’t tried yet.

In some ways, not being a particular denomination opens the door to a lot of possibilities. But it also makes it difficult to choose what the next step will be. If eventually I decide to go to seminary, I will need to commit to some sort of denomination for this training. What seminary I go to will likely be determined by where I end up working. So my first job could decide my denomination for the rest of my life. Which is a LOT of pressure.

Not being a denomination also gets in the way of being a youth pastor to begin with, because the average Christian-related job application has a little blank for denomination. If a church wanted to know what church I grew up in, the answer isn’t really cut and dry. I’ve heard that most churches would just want me to commit to attending their services each Sunday to hire me, that they would ask if I agreed with their basic theological doctrines. That is all good and well, but I feel uncomfortable saying that I am ___blank___ when I’m not really sure. You know?

I know that this might seem like a small hesitancy, but I really feel unprepared when it comes to denomination. This was an obstacle to me deciding to be a youth pastor, and now it continues to be a block I have to get over as I spend time reflecting on my future. It’s just something I will have to work with as it comes, but I would like to be a little more prepared. Thoughts? What am I?

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Ten Year Plan

When I was going to be a teacher, I had the next ten or so years of my life pretty well mapped out:
-1 more year to graduate
-2 years of service work abroad (hopefully Africa)
-2-3 years teaching wherever I could find a job
-2 years getting my Masters in English
-teach for the rest of my employed life

That last one was a little less definite, because there’s always the question of how long I would spend at one school. Also affecting the final portion was the fact that in the back of my female mind remained this thought about eventually marriage and how that played into it all.

Regardless, now things have changed significantly. First, I’m not sure I want to dedicate two years to service, and I’m not sure I want to do it internationally. Currently, I’m thinking about a year of domestic service work, possibly with an organization like JVC or something solid and dependable. I’d like to try to do something with youth, maybe prison ministry, homeless shelters, or something for the developmentally challenged. I think that having experiences with youth and in this country would lend itself better to my future career than spending time abroad.

After I do service, I want to find a job somewhere. Anywhere, really. I’ve never been super attached to places, and I can see myself in most parts of the country. Chicago, St. Louis, Georgia, Seattle, Louisiana, Arizona, Ohio, Tennessee, Maine, West Virginia… mostly anywhere except New England. Or really, really cold places, like Wisconsin. I’m from Texas, after all. But really, I’m open to mostly anything, geographically speaking.

Which makes it kind of difficult, to be honest. It might be easier if I could narrow it down to something more specific. The same goes for denominations. I don’t really belong to any one protestant denomination, so I could go a lot of directions with that. We’ll just see were God leads me.

Recently I came across a website called where you can sign up to receive e-mail alerts whenever an employer posts an open position in their site. You can define the specific position, denomination, and part of the country you would like to get notifications for. I signed up, even though I’m not necessarily looking for anything at this point. But I get e-mails pretty much every day, and there are quite a few that have interested me. So many talk about wanting dynamic, energetic, caring people. Quite a few are looking for someone to design a program from the ground up. Even though I’m not ready to apply, just knowing that these options are out there makes me incredibly excited about my future.

Well, my ten years might not be set in stone. Who knows if seminary is in the future at some point. And as the saying goes, if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans. It’s totally up to Him where my life is going to go. So I will trust Him to lead me there.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Degrees: A Few Words Regarding My Major

I have loved reading and writing for many years, so majoring in English was a fairly obvious choice as I began my college career. After a semester at Saint Louis University as an English major, I decided it would be more practical to add secondary education to this so that I would be able to teach English in public high schools once I graduated.

During my first three years, I wasn’t particularly satisfied with the education program. Classes were often repetitive, with serious overlaps in subject matter and continuous rehashing of certain methods and strategies. Yet despite the heavy education course load and all of the information we were given, I still spent a good amount of time feeling like I was not really ready to teach at all in a practical sense.

Also, whereas many colleges assign education students to their observation and practicum locations, SLU requires that we find our own. This means at the beginning of nearly every semester, I would be calling around to dozens of local schools trying to find one that would let me into a classroom to watch on a weekly basis or that would even allow me to help teach on occasion. Ninety percent of the time, this was an extremely frustrating and time-consuming process that rarely bore much fruit. Though the observations gave me a better idea of what I wanted my classroom to look like, the frustration was not worth what I got out of my required practicum experiences.

There were also many teachers who did a poor job of transmitting information, and I would frequently spend class periods doodling in my notebooks because I had either heard it before or I knew I wasn’t going to use that particular approach or idea in my class. For example, spending a week learning about how to administer a one-on-one psychological examination seemed fairly useless for me, a future high school English teacher with at least one hundred students. To summarize, I found many aspects of the education department frustrating, yet I always said, “But this is what I want to do,” so I continue to trudge through it, class by class and semester by semester.

When I heard God’s calling, it was apparent that my plans for my life were vastly altered, and this naturally meant that my plans for my final year of college could change as well. With so many courses under my belt, it made no sense to drop out of SLU or even to change degrees. I knew that I needed to have a backup and that having a degree, any degree, made me somewhat qualified to be a youth minister. Based on various conversations, I have come to understand that a career in youth ministry does not require a degree from a seminary. In fact, one person told me that some of the best youth ministers he knows are ones who didn’t go to seminary.

After some serious consideration, I decided to get the English education degree but to go the non-certification route. This means that I would take a few less classes (some of those I have already taken, though now I didn’t really need them), I would not student teach, and once I graduated I would not be technically certified to teach in Missouri. If youth ministry for some reason didn’t work out, it would still not be too difficult to obtain certification using my degree and experience.

I came back to SLU a few days before this semester’s classes began and met with my advisor to talk about my future. I basically told her that I no longer wanted to be a teacher and wanted to switch to non-certification. She seemed to accept this at first, handing me a list of what classes were required and such, but after a bit she decided to play devil’s advocate. She told me that I was so close to certification, and that student teaching and portfolio were the only things standing in my way. “Wouldn’t your student teaching experience be applicable to working with youth?”

Well, Ms. Swatek, they might in some ways be helpful, but I do not believe they would be worth the headache and frustration of giving up my last semester to be a secondary individual in a classroom that wouldn’t really need me. And my hope is that instead of dedicating my time to student teaching, I can transmit it into something more youth ministry-oriented.

So I begin this semester as an English/Education major, non-cert. What a beautiful day!

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Friday, September 11, 2009

To be inspired...

But of course that isn’t the end. And where I began the telling wasn’t really the beginning.

Sure, that was the story of how God called me, but it is undoubtedly interwoven with my past, with other people I have met, places I have been, and experiences I have had. Where I am now is a reflection of my life, both the past and the future, and for this I am immensely grateful.

I suppose that in some ways this is really just the beginning of my journey, and in the same way, my blog really begins here. You have heard the “why,” at least in part, and now it is time to begin to explore the “how”s, “where”s, “when”s, and “what”s.

Before embarking on this path of personal, outward investigation and explanation, I wanted to take a few moments to share some thoughts that have significantly impacted my life and the way I look at the world. I believe that these shed light on who I am, and also on why I do what I do.

The first is from Saint Teresa of Avila:
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours
no hands but yours
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
looks out
on the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to
go about
doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to
bless men and women now.”

I really love this because it reminds me that God desires a life of service. Hopefully, this is something I will be able to give Him.

The next quote is from Shane Clairborne:
“Even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practice it. We can believe in CPR, but people will remain dead until someone breathes new life into them. And we can tell the would that there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death.”

These words remind me so much that I need to live Christ’s message, that I need to be His Word in the world and to allow myself to just be on fire for Him. His love has changed me, challenged me, inspired me, and uplifted me, and it is my prayer that I can be this love for others.

Finally, this comes from Harold Whitman:
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I spent a long time convincing myself that being a teacher would make me come alive eventually. Looking back on it, I see how much I was just working to make myself believe that it was so. But the idea of spending my life with youth genuinely brings joy to my heart and I am so excited for the future now. God’s call might have been a terrifying thing, but His plans are making me come alive daily.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Story: Part 2 of 2

After God placed this small, previously unknown desire in my heart, I spent the weekend trying not to think about it because doing so would make my life much more complicated. Sunday afternoon brought in what proved to be another awesome group of youth and their adults. While greeting the church groups, moving them in, playing foursquare, and eating dinner, I observed the adults and looked for someone who I could talk with about this new idea.

YouthWorks calls Sunday and Monday “the first 30 hours,” the time when we make our first impressions and pretty much decide how the week will go. As I watched the groups interact at their first day of service, their first meals, and a trip to the local pool Monday afternoon, I noticed that God had blessed me with some incredible youth, mainly from one church. On Monday night, before we began our time of worship and reflection, I asked the youth minister of this church, Ryan, if he would talk with me for a few minutes after the kids had gone to bed (with a fully scheduled week, this was really the only time to have a deep conversation with someone).

That night, Ryan and I sat in the hall and briefly chatted about the day. After avoiding the actual reason for this meeting for a bit, I decided it was time to get to the point and brought up what the HFN had recommended for my life. “I don’t really know what a calling looks like,” I told him, “but when I read that, something just felt right.”

Well, Ryan pretty much told me that based on what he had seen in me, there was no way I couldn’t be a youth minister. He said that I had all of the necessary skills and personality traits, and that I “ooze” youth ministry. I began to list my hesitancies (which we be discussed in great detail over the next few weeks), and he shot those down one by one.

Throughout this conversation, the obstacles dropped away and God whispered in my heart, “This is right. This is you, Mary P.” Ryan told me that since that spark was in my heart, it was never going to go away. Now that I had heard God’s calling, it would never go away, as hard as I might try to make it. And I knew that God had turned my life plans upside-down.

Ryan and I talked a bit more about logistics, the next steps for me, other reasons why I couldn’t do it, and reasons why I should. I also got a chance to hear about his life leading up to his youth ministry, which was awesome. I always love to hear people tell their stories because God builds us up through one another and every experience impacts humanity.

Our conversation was winding down when Krista and Alaina, my coworkers, came out of our room to brush their teeth and sat down with us. By the time we had finished chatting and had learned that Krista can fit her fist in her mouth, it was almost 1 and the 6:45 wake up was just around the corner. As my head hit the pillow, I was terrified. I mean, everything I had known and planned and depended on had been rocked. What lay ahead was a HUGE mystery and I wasn’t ready for what the future would bring. Yet at the same time, part of me was at peace, because God had placed this so carefully and beautifully in my heart, and I knew that He would be with me every step of the way.

I might have woken up the morning of July 27 a future teacher, but as I drifted into sleep, I knew that God desired for me to be a future youth minister, a change that is continually challenging, encouraging, and thrilling me.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

The End

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Story: Part 1 of 2

This summer I was employed by an organization called YouthWorks, which works to connect youth groups with communities around the country through various service works. My time was spent leading mission trips in the incredible town of Logan, West Virginia, about an hour southwest of Charleston, the capital. Every week, 60-70 high school youth and adult leaders from various churches around the country would come to our site to repair homes and to help with a day camp for local kids. The four of us staff members would facilitate and lead their service and reflections and meals and so much more. (I am confident that I will be telling lots of stories throughout, since it was such a pivotal summer; have no fear.) We began a week of training in Philadelphia, had a week in Logan without any groups doing prep work, and then nine weeks of programming.

Throughout my time in Logan, I learned innumerable things about myself and was challenged and stretched in so many indescribable ways. In an environment where I would wake up at 6:45, go to bed after midnight, and was constantly working to ensure that the needs of youth, adults, community members were being met, it was only natural to learn quite a bit about myself. Sometimes this was more than I wanted to know.

But the beginning of my calling doesn’t come until the end of July. Something awesome that all YouthWorks sites do is Happy Fun Notes (HFNs). Each staff member, adult leader, and youth would get a locker at our housing site at orientation on the first day, and then during their week in Logan they could encourage and uplift one another with simple notes. It is a really awesome opportunity for them to be Christ to one another and to allow others to strengthen them. I would get letters ranging from amazingly heartfelt testimonials to warm compliments to minor criticisms, and even once a comment that I have skinny arms and need to work out more (seriously). A lot of times kids would stay up late on Thursday night writing to anyone and everyone before they left Friday morning. Enter the first inkling of my calling.

At the end of week 7, after we had cleaned the building, packed up the kids, bid them farewell, and took our weekly (and very necessary) hour-long nap, I peeked in my locker to discover a note from an adult leader, who was also the trip leader of his church group and just a great guy in general. The note, which I still have along with every other note I received this summer, said this:

“Mary P- Thank you for uplifting messages this week—they were excellent! You should be a youth pastor! The footwashing and prayer meant so much to me! Thank you!

Despite my tiredness and the duties ahead to prepare for the next week, these words hit me like a ton of bricks. All of a sudden something made sense. A youth pastor? Yes. Yes, please. But I really didn’t have time to consider what it meant, and at this point I was way too scared to look into too deeply. I mean, this was not in my life plans. There were about a million obstacles in my way. So no, thank you. Maybe in the next life.

Basically I was thinking that I would really like to work with youth for the rest of my life, but getting to that point involved much more work—physical, emotional, spiritual, etc—than I was prepared to put in. I pretty much decided to just tuck the idea away for a bit, until I could figure it out in a more real-life situation, away from the beauty of West Virginia and the high of living in total service of others. But at the same time, I wanted to talk to someone about this, someone who had a little experience. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I hoped that I would be able to find a solid, amiable youth minister the next week and that we would be able to talk with the intention of hopefully getting things a bit more straightened out in my mind.

But again, all of this way tucked away in my mind as I needed to focus on resting up, distressing, and preparing for the second to last week in Logan.

…to be continued…

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Welcome to my Journey

Hello dear friends,

This summer was one of immense stretching and growing. Somewhere toward the end of July, God completely altered my life plans and called me to be a youth minister (this story will be told in the next entry, I promise). Although I have finally come to peace with this upcoming chapter of my life, and though I am excited about it and comfortable with it, I really haven’t spent a lot of time reflecting on this calling, its implications, my precise desires, what led me here, and other various facets of youth ministry and its role in my life. Therefore, I have begun this blog. I am using it partly to give my friends and family insight into my mindset in all this, but I am also using it largely for selfish reasons. This is my chance to sort things out in my mind, to reflect on God’s calling, to more readily hear His voice and align His will to me life, and to create for myself in image of my future.

Since I have so recently set out on this journey, it is likely that others will see changes occur in my writings over time. I am fine with this, even to the point where I will warn you that perhaps my ideas in later entries will disagree entirely with things I write early on. That is all part of the process, and I am comfortable with it, or at least I will try to be.

A few statements on organization: I tried to work out the best way to order my entries. I thought about doing this chronologically by beginning with my past (what led to where I am), moving to my present (my emotions, fears, and such), and finishing with my future (how I envision my ministry, what the next steps are, my long-term personal goals, etc). However, I find this limiting because there are many ideas that are better explained by covering all three parts at one time, and there are others facets that cannot be placed in a specific location in time yet are important for me to discuss with myself.
I also thought about organizing these entries according to broad topic: I would devote many entries to emotions, many to my calling, many to physical aspects of youth ministry, many to my reactions to others’ ministries, and so on. Yet I fear I would think of another aspect of something I had discussed after I have moved on, and would not be able to add this entry without disrupting the flow.
Therefore, after some consideration, I have decided just to write things as they come. This does not mean that these entries will be haphazardly thrown together or that there will be no logical from one to the next. It simply means that I am not going to attempt at the outset to order things so precisely that I am limited in what I will say each time I sit down to reflect on my ministry. Hopefully everything I say will be easy to follow. Also know that I am always open to questions, comments, suggestions, and the like.

Thank you for listening, for rejoicing, for following, and for shouting.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.