Before you disagree with me, hear me out. First I must confess. I’m sort of a social media junky. While I don’t live on it, I do believe that it is a very important tool for ministry. So when I say “out” what I mean is that it gets us out of the church box. People are browsing it daily looking for well, whatever they are looking for. Oftentimes we are looking for connection. We are looking for a way to interact with the world around us. Many have argued that social media takes us away from real, face to face relationships. That may be partially true, but… (more)
I jumped. I can’t believe I did it. I was afraid. I was excited. I was free.
A month ago I spent an afternoon of jumping with a small group of adults in Florida.
Let me explain.
I spent a week with some adults who are immersed in faith formation leadership. They want to make a difference and long to find a better way. It can be hard. It can be wonderful.
We set out for an afternoon of leadership development and confidence building on a high ropes adventure course. Even with hesitation the magnetic pull of a relational community fueled our confidence.
And so it began. We harnessed in, got trained and climbed the ladder. Aside from a few moments of initial uncertainty we managed to get the hang of it. We clipped in and traversed high into the trees (it felt more like a jungle and I like Tarzan). This particular ropes course was suspended above zoo animal habitats. With each element we peered down to see monkeys and aardvarks and exotic birds. It gave the feeling of being in a strange faraway land. It went from fear, to tense, to exhausting, to laughter. Then we were back on the ground. Such was phase one.
Phase two stopped me in my tracks. We looked up to see a ladder, then a long rope and wooden step swinging walkway and a small platform suspended 50 feet in the air. There lied the zip line.
Someone looked at me and said, “Why don’t you go first?” Feeling the need to prove myself as a brave leader I reluctantly said, “OK.” Up I went.
I followed our experienced guide of course and made it to the landing. As I pulled myself up to take that final step onto the platform my heart sunk, knees trembled and I looked at the guide with a blank stare. And the I looked over his shoulder to see a 700 ft. zip line across a small lake and into a dark place in the pines(did I mention there were alligators in the water?).
The guide clipped into the zip line and said, “Ok, see you on the other side.” Wait, no “you’ve got this, you’re going to do great, your safe and have all you need to make it.” Nope, nothin’! Just “see you on the other side.” And off he went.
There I was, alone suspended above the treetops wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. The stillness and quiet of the moment caused me to pause for just a moment. I looked down at the two strong carabiners that clipped me securely to the zip line and I had a brief moment of clarity(or insanity) and I remembered how far I had come. I had traversed high in the trees and safely arrived in this place.
It was time to jump.
I placed my gloved hands over the clips and jumped.
Unbelievable exhilaration followed me 700 feet through the air as I laughed and screamed and landed safely on the other side.
Today Lent begins. Will you jump?
Will you dive into a deeper relationship with Christ? Will you let go of your fears and trust? Today we are reminded that Christ has gone before us. Lent is a time to gain that moment of clarity by looking to the life Christ lived and gave for us all. Let’s jump together.
I hear it all the time. “We want our ministry to go deeper.” In fact, “going deeper” is a phrase we throw around in all kinds of areas of our lives. The desire to go deeper is the hope that we will make a greater difference or whatever we are doing will have more meaning. A recent study in marine science estimates that there are 230,000 species of life in the ocean. In order to find this out they had to do a 10 year study and go to the deepest depths of the sea. Pretty amazing. I’ll bet they had to go to some pretty scary places. Life and ministry is like that isn’t it. We often stay on the surface because going deeper means getting messy and there are places that we may need to go that are down right scary. But in the deep is where we find the power of the cross, the depth of God’s love for us. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in terms of what many churches are going through. I’ve had countless conversations with church leaders who end up frustrated because they feel their people are reluctant to go deeper in their faith journey because they are too busy, don’t feel equipped, are afraid of the mystery of what they might find or maybe they just aren’t interested.
My first experience snorkling in Jamaica several years ago I was very excited. In this particular location, all we had to do was walk into the water from the beach and we were able to see all kinds of beautiful fish. But then a friend asked if I wanted to go out into the deep water. I hesitated because I know I’m not a strong swimmer and I’m afraid of what lurks out there. I mean, I watched Jaws in the theatre in junior high. But he encouraged me. He said he would be right there with me and it would be fun. So off I went. And he was right. While it was indeed scary as we held our breath and dove down into the deep water, the colors and coral and thousands of fish were absolutely beautiful. It was a whole different world than close to the shore. Every time I looked over to my friend he had a big smile and a thumbs up. My eyes were opened to a whole new world that day and I’ll never forget it.
So what helps us go deeper in our faith? It’s people. People who encourage, listen, ask important questions and walk (or swim) alongside us and promise not to leave us. They don’t point out how “shallow” our faith is, they honor the place we are and challenge us to explore new depths in our relationship with God. When we take the risk of going deeper, God reveals to us some incredible things. Will you go?
Today I landed in Florida for a week long intensive with people living and breathing youth and family ministry. The training is in Vero Beach down a ways on the eastern coast. I was picked up at the airport by Matt who is married to one of my wife’s cousins. We had a fun drive getting caught up on our lives and talking about family and ministry. About a half hour into our trip we realized we had missed the exit for the quickest route. But it was not a problem because we realized we could just keep going and take the “scenic route” down the coast.
Suddenly we found ourselves passing through Cocoa Beach and the memories began to flow for me. You see, several years ago we loaded up the family van along with some good friends and decided to make the long haul to Disneyworld. It was 26 hours straight through. We decided to spend a couple days in Cocoa beach before we went back up to Disney. As we passed through Cocoa I saw the hotel where we stayed. I began to remember that amazing, fun trip that also came with some unexpected twists. The boys spent all day in the ocean and were so badly sunburned we had to delay our trip to Disney for a day. They were absolutely miserable. We saw a huge snake on the beach and made sure the moms didn’t see it. The transmission went out in our friend’s van. All things we didn’t expect.
But all along the parents just kept laughing and saying, “we’re making memories.” I guess it was our way of telling ourselves this trip wasn’t a disaster. And the memories came to me vividly today. I started thinking about how important it has been to do things with our kids that are memorable. What is it about memories that stirs something up inside of us that gives us a sense of gratefulness and contentment? Remembering how giddy our Minnesota born kids were to swim all day in the ocean. Remembering the laughter that we shared and the relaxation of being away from the stresses of life. I thought about how we watched our kids playing so joyfully and I knew we were all thinking how much we loved them.
What is it about memories?
These moments are significant in our lives because they remind us of the importance of simply being together as friends and family. They remind us that life is meant to be lived joyfully. Even in the midst of the things that go wrong, we look back on how we triumphed and had a great story to tell. And tell it we do. So many times we’ve told the stories of that trip and many others so that we can once again feel the comfort of togetherness.
As we spend time with our children, we are making memories that last a lifetime. As we take our youth on those crazy, exhausting service trips or camps we are creating memories that can be recalled to be reminded of the presence of God.
What memories do you have that illicit something very sacred to you?
May we be memory makers in this life because they remind us of the significance of those we love.
Welcome to my blog. I hope it is inspiring and meaningful to you. Pardon the bare bones site right now. I’m just getting this up and running to help me flesh out my ideas on life and faith. It will also be a place to share thoughts on the changing nature of the church. It’s a new endeavor as I have experienced an extreme amount of change over the last year. Some of this change has been incredibly painful and some has been amazingly hopeful, both are hard to put into words. Our son Max died unexpectedly just over a year ago on Dec. 29, 2012 when he got the flu and then pneumonia and an infection while we were on vacation up in Wisconsin. He was 17. We had just spent a joyful Christmas with my wife’s family and then spent four days in a St. Paul hospital as his body rapidly failed. The doctors were baffled and so were we. The pain of losing a child is like no other and the year that followed has been a journey filled with every emotion imaginable.
But God has found a way to faithfully journey alongside us as we wade through the waters of grief.
This huge change also pushed me to wrestle with my call of 26 years of working in congregational youth and family ministry. While my call to do ministry has never wavered, I wondered if working in the local church setting was still for me. The church community was incredibly supportive and allowed me time to grieve, study, write, read and pray. Finally in the fall of 2013 I experienced what I call a nudge of the Spirit. I simply knew that my 8 1/2 years of ministry at this congregation and my 26 years of working full time in churches needed to come to a close. I resigned with absolutely no idea of what I was going to do next. However, I felt so content that God had something in mind for me.
It was not long after I resigned that I got a call from Vibrant Faith Ministries. Through a two month process of discernment I accepted the call to be a congregational trainer, coach and consultant. So as of Jan. 1 another change is upon me. I am very excited and blown away by how God has lead me over the past year. God has led me and now I embark on a new challenge celebrating the gifts God has given me.
I hope you will join me in discovering new and innovative ways of sharing the gospel in a world that is constantly changing. We must face the changes of this life so that God can change lives through us.