Grandma’s Kitchen

A few months ago, I was challenged to think of a literal place that brought me complete joy, peace, safety, comfort.  I wanted it to be church.  I gave a valiant effort.  I thought of the youth ministries I have served in the past 20 years.  I thought of dear friends made over the course of ministry done together.  I thought of influential people in my history – professors, pastors, and the like.

But try as I might, I could only think of one place that brought me the kind of security we were thinking about: my grandmother’s kitchen.

I can still see her robin-egg blue enamel kitchen table with mis-matched leather chairs shoved against the wall.  And just behind, the make-shift counter – probably recycled from an old tool shed somewhere by my grandfather.  That counter top was always chock full of stuff – dishes awaiting their permanent home, the huge, black rotary dial phone (on a party line!), and her old clay cookie jar…which I can see clearly in my own kitchen as I write this.

Because we lived on what I have affectionately dubbed ‘the family compound’, I would walk up the hill to grandma’s house every day before school.  She made me pancakes for breakfast almost every day – and every afternoon, gingersnaps standing by in the cookie jar.

She doctored scraped knees in that kitchen.  She ‘told the cow how to eat the cabbage’ in that kitchen.  She comforted scared and scarred children in that kitchen.  She listened to dreams -and encouraged them in that kitchen.  She served, prayed, disciplined, comforted, played, cried, laughed, cooked, cleaned, and loved  in that kitchen.

She pastored me in that kitchen – so in many ways, THAT church is the safest place I’ll ever know.  I miss her kitchen – and her influence and counsel in my life.  I am overwhelmed that God knew from the very beginning what kind of refuge I would need as a kid…and He ordained that position to my grandmother.  And no matter how long I serve in student ministry – how many churches, pastors, or people I lead – my safest place will always be that ‘church’ just up the hill from my house.



Helping Kids Find Their Way Home

When people have wandered far from the Lord, the road back can look too long and grueling to make the destination worth the journey. But it is worth it. Those of us who have made the trip know what’s waiting at the end.

Pull out that GPS.  Hop on MapQuest.  It’s a REALLY long drive to anywhere from Corpus Christi, TX.  It’s about 1,100 miles from Corpus to Durango – and, ironically, about the same distance back.

On the way to Colorado we had three vehicles and six drivers.  Someone was always rested and ready to go the next leg of the trip.  We took the trip in two days and changed drivers every 3 – 4 hours.  Safety first!  It seemed like an easy trip, to be very honest.  We stayed overnight in a nice hotel.  We enjoyed sometime at the pool, ate a nice breakfast, and leisurely traveled the remaining miles on the second day.

The road home, however, was not as tranquil.

We found out about a week before we departed for camp that my son had won a state writing competition for our region.  He needed to be in Austin, TX, on the last travel day of camp.  So after conferring with our camp team, we decided that my son and I would leave a few hours earlier than everyone else, take the luggage van and drive straight through from Durango to Austin.  I would meet up with the team the next day as they drove through San Antonio.

As we drove the almost 1,000 miles to Austin that day, I realized what it must be like for people who wander far from home.

We started the trip back with a fresh outlook – a good night’s sleep – a full tank of gas – doughnuts from the best doughnut place in Durango.  We were excited about the trip. I think kids who turn back to God after a stint ‘far from home’ might feel the same way.  Their outlook is glorious.  They have fuel for the journey and they are just excited to get back to where they know they need to be.

After about 250 miles, my son and I both realized this trip was gonna be a lot longer than we had anticipated.  We started our IV drip of caffeine and sugar and kept plowing forward.  I think maybe when kids start coming back to Christ, they might keep going at the first sign of fatigue. It’s a tiring journey, but they know they need to be where they are heading. Help them plug into a source of energy for the journey.

After about a half day of driving, we were both tired and getting cranky.  And though we were meant to encourage one another on this trip, we started fighting.  It was a pretty intense argument over how difficult this journey was going to be.  Instead of helping one another along the way, we started taking shots at one another. I think kids who are trying to crawl their way back to Christ will do this, sometimes.  As the road gets rough, they start ripping on the ones meant to help them find their way home.  Sometimes when that happens, we give up on them.  We see that as the end of their journey, not just a crabby, exhausted, road-weary traveler lashing out during a weakened moment.  During those weak moments, help them find the strength they have in Christ, in fellowship, and in accountability.

We still had about four hours left in our drive when I finally had to pull over at a rest stop and use it for its namesake.  I was just so done with driving.  I could hardly keep my eyes open.  My extremities were shaking from fatigue.  I had a difficult time focusing.  I slept for about 15 minutes.  I couldn’t believe how much that little rest refreshed me.  I was still tired, but I was able to finish the journey.  Sometimes, as kids make their way back to Jesus, they’re gonna have to stop for a breather.  This is an intense trip in every way, but especially emotionally and spiritually.  Recognize that as long as they aren’t going backward, they are facing forward – and that’s a good thing.  Rest is good.  Give them a breather – then wake them up in 15 minutes for the rest of the journey.

After almost 20 hours on the road, we finally made it to Austin.  In the dark cover of night, we rolled into our hotel parking lot.  My wife had already checked into the hotel, so we were able to walk straight to our room and collapse in complete joy that we had made it home, even though that road was a long, arduous one.  We slept well that night.  The road home is long.  Walking it with kids can be almost as tiring as making the journey for yourself.  Make sure there’s a safe place to land when the journey is complete – for both you and your student.  Surround yourself and your student with people who will welcome you back with encouragement and joy!

When people have wandered far from the Lord, the road back can look too long and grueling to make the destination worth the journey.  But it is worth it.  Those of us who have made the trip know what’s waiting at the end.  Stand firm with your kids.  Love and encourage them as they drive.  Don’t give up on them and be there with an open and rejoicing heart when the trip is finally complete!

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