Archives For July 2012

Don’t Hide Your Process

Mike —  July 31, 2012 — Leave a comment

I look like crap when I run. I don’t mean when I’m chasing after a well-timed ball or a midfielder, when I step into a magical place of fleet-footed form and fox-like swiftness. I mean when I go out for a few miles of pavement. I’ve never had a running coach work with me to improve my form, so I just sort of point myself in one direction or another and go. It seems that every step falls harder than the last one and my face turns a color of red that was never meant for faces. Every block passed seems to see my hair getting more and more crazy, as each follicle struggles to get off the ride. On really long distances, you can actually begin to see salt build up, like hard water stains in a sink that’s seen a few too many toothbrushes since the last time it was cleaned.

The thing is, when I’m out for a run, I’m not really thinking about how I look. I don’t really care. That’s not what I’m running for. When I run, my mind wanders even further than my feet take me. I usually spend the time praying or just talking to myself (in my head – I don’t want to look crazy, too!). Often, lessons and messages come into shape while I run. Sometimes, songs or blog posts are written internally to the staccato cadence of my steps. Big decisions are weighed and options analyzed for possible outcomes. Occasionally, as it has been lately, the weight of these options is temporarily suspended as I run – as if the run creates its own gravity, allowing me to just move and breathe and think.

What’s peculiar for me in all of this is how, in just about every other area of my life, I hate for people to see the process. The process is messy and cluttered and unfiltered and sometimes ugly. The process is painful and risky. I want people to see finished products. Don’t watch me halfway through the marathon, talk to me after I’ve finished and showered away the salt licks and can hold up the finisher’s medal. (The red face takes a while to fade, so I won’t make you wait that long.)

But life doesn’t always work that way. Youth ministry doesn’t work that way. It’s a messy process, in which solo artists who refuse to let anyone collaborate in the clutter get very little traction.

Who do you need to allow into your process?

How can I give you entry into mine?

Post Camp Wrap Up

Mike —  July 30, 2012 — Leave a comment

I spent the last 2 weeks at camp with our high school and middle school students digging into the first part of the Exodus story. While they’ve added moderately dependable wi-fi in the past few years (which allowed us to Skype with a missionary friend on the other side of the planet!), the camp schedule doesn’t lend itself to much writing, so allow me to unpack a few camp thoughts and interesting facts this morning:

  • “If your presence doesn’t go with us, don’t send us up from here.” The presence of God is critical to the people of God carrying out the mission of God. It’s only in His presence that we are strong enough for the task at hand.
  • Was it significant in Ex. 33 that Joshua would stay behind in the Tent of Meeting? What was God doing in those times together to prepare Joshua to lead His people in a whole new way upon Moses’ last trip into the mountains?
  • It’s always sad to see kids live down to the labels they’ve been given – and awesome to see them overcome those labels when they learn to find their identity in Jesus. This goes for the brainiacs and the ADHD kids, the techie geeks and the cheerleaders. When we accept the identity He gives us as His sons & daughters, then we can live lives worthy of the calling that we’ve received.
  • Israel was pretty quick to promise to obey the Law God gave, but when the leader was incommunicado for a few weeks, they were even quicker to desert both God and His spokesman. How patiently do we wait for God? What does it take to distract us from His purpose?
  • “I threw the gold into the fire, and out came this golden calf?” For someone who was supposed to be adept at speaking clearly, Aaron came up with the lamest excuse ever on this one. I’ve heard better stuff from my 5 year old.
  • We made through the entire week of Jr. High camp without having to force any of our boys to take a shower! See, I told you there’s hope for the future.
  • Christ doesn’t set us free so that we can just do whatever we want; it’s so that we can worship God the way we’ve always been meant to worship Him.

While my 2 boys are at Junior camp this week, the camp season is done for me for this year. It’s been a good, stretching summer. School starts in just a couple weeks for most of our students and will swallow up more and more of their time. Pray that the way they’ve grown and been challenged this summer would not be swallowed up as well…

One More Step

Mike —  July 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

I just spent the afternoon with a bunch of high school kids and their youth leaders jumping off a perfectly good cliff. Many people are concerned about other people who do this. Why on earth would one hurl his body from terra firma? The rocks of the cliff are nice and solid. Every step is firmly met with strong support and confidence that our resistance to gravity will continue for a few more feet. But then some kid has to inch up, right to the edge of stability… and take one more step.

Glory goes to the brave, evidently, and soon courage is mustered sufficiently to provoke the masses to seek the thrill and follow suit. One more step beyond safety into the clutches of gravity toward the cool waters of the lake below.

So many times this is ministry… It's life… One more step.

What do you need to do to go all in with your life? Is safety keeping you from experiencing life? Take one more step.

Hypothetically Church

Mike —  July 11, 2012 — 2 Comments

Back in January, I posted a little hypothetical thought exercise on my old site, and I thought maybe you’d like to play along. I don’t want to migrate my whole blog to this new location, but from time to time, I plan to pull over selected posts. Like this one:

Imagine with me… a group of people, mostly in their mid to late 20’s, living in the same apartment complex near the hospital where most of them work. There are a handful of single med students, several newlywed couples, a few widows & widowers, and even a couple families with young children (though, their apartments are getting a bit crowded so one of them may be moving out soon to a place with a yard where their kids can play).

It’s not a huge complex, so they see each other often, and there seem to be several running conversations in the group that are always picked up and left off as they pass in the hall and hang out in the lobby. These people know each other really well. It’s not uncommon at all to see one of the younger set helping out the older folks by carrying groceries or doing whatever else may be needed. The youngest kids talk excitedly about the grandmas and grandpas they have in the building, and if you had to guess, you’d probably think they really were family. And they are… just not in the way that has anything to do with genetics or legal agreements.

I go to church in their neighborhood, and have visited their building a couple times. When Bill got sick and had to retire from his work in the hospital’s ER, they threw him one of the coolest retirement parties I’ve seen. It was amazing to see people whose lives Bill had saved or whose broken arms he’d set get together and talk about what a difference he’d made to each of them. He never stopped at just the basic care they’d expected. The apartment crew, as I’ve come to call them, also went way above and beyond to celebrate Bill’s work over the years. The extra mile seems to be a pattern for all of them.

These people really seem to love each other, too. They don’t just live in the same space, they genuinely and excessively care about the well being of each one in their community. Several times a week, all of them who can get there will share a meal together in the courtyard (or the lobby when it’s cold), and no one ever eats alone.  I was surprised at one visit to hear them talking about some Bible passages they’d read lately, and how it motivated them to love even others outside their community the same way they loved each other. They’ve taken the word “neighbor” to a whole new level…

My neighborhood’s not like that, so I pressed them once about what the difference was. They said the difference was that they’d each committed to loving Jesus, loving others, and doing the things Jesus said to do – which I thought was kind of odd because most of them hardly ever go to church. I asked why they don’t go to church and they said they’d each chosen to work Sunday morning shifts so that other people could go if they wanted to. They did point out that they had been taking turns leading devotions in the lobby every morning before the kids had to be at school, and they’d built a prayer wall in one of the halls where they’d post stuff to pray about with each other. They showed me the board, full of notes from just about everyone in the building.

As I visited yesterday, one note in particular really hit me. It was from Jake, one of the boys who may be moving soon. He only asked for two things:

  • That they could find a house big enough for the whole family. By the picture he drew with the note, I could tell ‘family’ didn’t just mean his brother and parents!
  • That moving to a house didn’t mean they’d have to stop helping at the homeless shelter the ‘family’ had started around the corner from their building.
Leaving the apartments, I noticed our church building just down the block. The parking lot was empty and I knew the doors would be locked, but I walked down anyway and sat down on the steps for a bit. I couldn’t help but wondering about myself and all my friends that get together here every Sunday. We talk about Bible passages and sing songs telling God how awesome He is and how much we love Him. We pray together and some of us chat a little bit after services. But then we all go home and mostly don’t see much of each other until next Sunday. I think we’re trying to love Jesus in all of this, but the more time I spend with those people in the apartment building down the street, the more I wonder if we might be missing something.

Why is our group called ‘church’ but theirs is not?

———-

Just a quick, non-hypothetical point: This is not about the guy who claims to be worshiping God in nature because he’d rather go golfing on Sunday mornings. It’s not about Justin Bieber saying he doesn’t have to go to church because somebody else just religiously goes to church to go to church (more perspective on that here from Scot McKnight & Dan Kimball). It’s about the essence of church. When you strip everything away that’s superfluous in the church, what’s still there? I know this apartment dwelling group is fictitious. But the question remains: should it be?

Saying No

Mike —  July 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

As I’ve been sifting through the stacks on my desk of things to get done, I had a fleeting thought of an opportunity that’s coming up to which I said “No.” I would’ve enjoyed it, to be honest, and at first I considered it a possibility. But as I started to weigh the demands of the opportunity against other commitments and desires, I knew that I just didn’t have time to do it well AND do well with the rest of what I was hoping to accomplish.

So I said “No.”

Today, I’m so glad I did. Maybe that sounds strange; being glad to have said “No” to something. But I’ve found that the number of requests and demands on my time far exceeds my capacity to fulfill those requests. For a long time, I had a hard time saying “No” when these kinds of opportunities came along. I felt like I owed something to the person asking, or that they’d think less of me if I said “No.” I felt like I had to say “Yes” to keep people pleased with me. Maybe you’ve felt that way, too.

But the truth is that if our value to someone else is set by the times we say “Yes” to their requests, then what they really value isn’t us, it’s their own agenda and their own self. Here is your permission to stop trying to please them. You don’t have to say “Yes” to everything.

This doesn’t mean we should just refuse to do whatever we don’t want to do or that we don’t feel like doing. This isn’t about making selfish choices. I have some things that I’ll be doing in the near future that I don’t really want to do, but I need to do them. Even though, I’d rather have said “No” I’m saying “Yes” because there is something to be done that I need to do. You’ll have some of those things, too.

But saying “No” when it’s right allows us to also say “Yes” to open doors that come along. A couple weeks ago, I had a new opportunity come up to which I was glad to say “Yes.” I’m excited to get to do a couple solid days of some youth ministry teaching with college students that will be leading youth ministries for years to come. This opportunity is much more within my area of interest, and while it’s not until October, if I’d said “Yes” to the first request I mentioned, I would’ve been feeling so swamped that I would’ve been a lot more like to have said “No, I just can’t do it.” Or to have said “Yes” and let some other areas of responsibility slide into the background of life. For a lot of people, that means family gets cheated. There’s a cost to saying “Yes.”

What are you saying “No” to lately. Make sure your “Yes” answers aren’t costing you something more important.

Update to Standard 3

Mike —  July 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

I’ve just updated my blog to the Standard 3 Theme. This probably means very little to most of you, but you may notice a few added touches here. It’ll be a lot more tidy and a little more sleek (maybe the rest of my life will soon follow suit!).

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If you blog (specifically if you blog on WordPress) check out my affiliate link to get the theme yourself and help feed the hungry children that live in my house. It’s been easy to work with and the support has been great when I’ve gotten myself stuck a couple times. If you don’t blog, maybe you should consider starting up…

  • You’ve got something to say that we need to hear.
  • Writing may help you clarify what God’s doing in your own life. This doesn’t haven’t to be let out into the wild (like on a blog), but if it is, it just might help someone else, too.
  • You have friends that will listen to you. Blogging could be a great way for you to be a little salt & light for their lives.

Our nation celebrates it and applauds its virtue… “as Free and Independent States…”

Children grow up straining for it with every step… “I can do it myself.”

I used to think I wanted it… “You can’t tell me how to live my life.”

But independence is a lie. Or at least an illusion.

Each shred of humanity is no more independent of the rest than the ocean is independent of the snowcaps. We may see no immediate dependency, but we are each counting on something outside of ourselves to make our days mean something… or even to just make it through our days (ever tried to create your own air supply to breathe?). When the colonies in North America declared themselves independent of the Crown of Great Britain, they were certainly striking a chord for freedom (which is not the same thing as independence), but the way we’ve applied the concept of individual independence in our country today is a far cry from what they had in mind in their Declaration when they wrote,

…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

That doesn’t sound like the kind of independence we see at work today, when athletes won’t fulfill a pledge to multi-million dollar contracts, and celebrity’s won’t fulfill a pledge to more than a few years of a marriage, or where most of us pledge very little to anything other than ourselves. It sounds a lot more like a mutual recognition of dependence on one another. The early colonists knew they didn’t stand a chance against the King unless they could band together. (“Hang together or hang separately” ring a bell?) Their national independence was predicated on their ability to trust and depend on each other.

I wonder if the same is not true today.

Where will our nation be if we continue to live under the assumption that my life and your life and the life of the welder down the street are not connected in any way? That we’re all independent of each other? Where will we end up if we fail to acknowledge just how dependent we really are?

This Independence Day, go ahead and celebrate the birth of a great nation. Have apple pie and play some baseball and blow up some cheap Chinese gunpowder if you can do it without burning down your neighborhood. But realize America, that we are not really independent at all. Each of us are connected. Each of us matter. And each of us needs the other. The greatest days of our nation are those marked by men and women who “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Those days don’t have to be left in the past.

Wait… Ok, Now Go

Mike —  July 3, 2012 — Leave a comment

When Jesus commissioned His disciples to take his message of repentance into the world & make disciples (see Luke 24:47, Mt. 28:19… etc.), He was handing off the baton in many ways. He’d spent 30 some years preparing for a 3 year ministry that was all about seeking and saving what was lost – restoring people to right relationships with His Father. He’d stared death in the hideous face, carried the weight of our sin & rejection into the grave, then emerged once again into life as the Son of God. His victory over death made possible a victory for all who would follow Him. The seeking and saving of those who’d been lost was now left up to His disciples.

Let the weight of that sink in for a minute. The sole purpose for which Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth was now being left in the hands of a small eclectic group of first century Jews. They fished and collected taxes and compared bunions and railed at the political powers… they didn’t have a lot of experience in the whole “seeking and saving” department. But Jesus didn’t leave them with a pamphlet containing 5 Surefire Methods of Church Planting or with tracts containing the 4 Spiritual Laws to hand out. He didn’t draft a memo listing 3 Potent Principles of Personal Evangelism or leave a book describing the 2 Questions Everyone Must Answer Before They Die. He didn’t even tell them the 1 Secret to Carrying Out Christ’s Mission.

He just told them to wait.

Seriously.

To wait?

Ok, guys. You’re going to be my witnesses all over the world. Tell people all about me and the forgiveness I offer. Teach them to repent and baptize them and keep teaching them everything I’ve taught you. Start here, then go everywhere else. “But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

Sorry Jesus, we’ve seen some crazy stuff the last few weeks and we may have misunderstood you just now. You’re sounding like you’re leaving us for good… and we’re just supposed to wait here? 

Let’s not get this wrong here; Jesus had them waiting for something very specific. They weren’t just sitting around not doing anything. Scripture describes them spending time in the temple praising God and spending time together praying to God while they waiting. But they were waiting… for the Holy Spirit.

The power for the early disciples to do what Jesus told them to do didn’t come from the brilliant strategic mind of Bartholomew or the persuasive passion of Peter. Matthias was not the perfect missing team member who’s addition unlocked all the potential of the Apostolic Dream Team. Later, the power didn’t even come from the keen apologetic debate skills of Paul. The ability to be the body He had called them to be came from the Holy Spirit.

The same is true today in our youth ministries. We cannot “make disciples” under the power of our great games or teaching tactics or awesome youth rooms. The best curriculum and all the right planning and great lighting and even better speaking skills cannot substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t trust your tactics more than you trust the Spirit. Maybe you need to stop doing something (maybe even something that seems to be working) or maybe you need to try something new (even something that might not seem to make sense).

Wait for Him.

Breathe in the gift of the Spirit He’s sent to you, then go make disciples.

Top Posts for June

Mike —  July 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

June wasn’t the busiest month here at Imminent Crash, but it was close. With CIY Move going on, I had several midnight posts sort of ‘exhaling’ each day at the conference. Those were some tough days and it was a good exercise for me to process all that had happened those days, but I think I’m still recovering from the deprivation of sleep!

Here are the top posts from the last month:

Church Vans, Hail, & What is Enough?Reflecting on safe travel & hail damage.

Quick CO2 from CIY Move – Day 1

What Were They Thinking?A fun post celebrating 18 years of our marriage! (Still the best decision I’ve made outside of following Jesus.)

CO2 from CIY – Day 2 – An exhale after the most emotionally exhausting day of CIY Move I’ve ever been a part of.

CO2 from CIY – Day 3 – When I unwittingly stepped in to pinch hit for Mark Moore… sort of.

CO2 from CIY – Day 4

If you missed these posts, feel free to browse back through them. With 2 weeks of camp and a few days of family reunion coming up, I’m not sure what the July postings will look like, so this may be a great month to go back and re-share some of the older posts with all your favorite people. Welcome to July.