My iPod loses its charge too fast.

That stupid special report interrupted my favorite show.

Traffic sucked and I had to wait in line at Wal-Mart for like 40 minutes.

Welcome to #firstworldproblems.

Recently, I was having a conversation with some youth ministry buddies about our woes in youth ministry.  Let’s compare and contrast.

Our elders have just reduced our insurance benefit.  #firstworldproblems

My friend Leah lives in a grass hut in Africa where she has no running water.  She poops in a hole in the ground, has eaten more than an occasional bug, and puts her life at risk every day in a politically volatile part of the country…not to mention mosquitoes and malaria.

We didn’t get our Christmas bonus this year.  #firstworldproblems

My friends Julian and Amy are chained to this country while their heart engages the people of China.  They wait patiently for God to release them while wondering why he hasn’t yet.  And their people await their arrival.

No one even mentioned Pastor Appreciation this year.  #firstworldproblems

I hear the voices of countless missionaries who served their entire lives with nary a thank you.  Martyrs in countries around the world sacrifice everything – their very lives – for the cause of the gospel.   Pastors preach the word under cover of night so they won’t be imprisoned.

I can’t get a job in youth ministry anywhere.  #firstworldproblems

I have good friends all over the country, Justin and others,  who work their regular jobs and STILL serve God by serving students.  They get nothing – no benefits, no bonuses, no paychecks, and very little, if any, appreciation.  They do it because they love Jesus and embrace the call.

Katie asked me this morning what I would do if I was never able to find a job in the church again.  I have no idea – but I do know this.  That’s a #firstworldproblem.

Don’t misunderstand.  My convo with my buddies has legitimacy   Churches should provide well for those they hire.  Appreciation should not be an anomaly   A workman is worth his or her wage.

I have just realized these past months that those concerns should not dominate me or my focus.  (And they have – at least at times throughout my ministry.)  But they’re ultimately #firstworldproblems and I want to be #otherworldfocused.

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.



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