It’s That Time Again…

…no, not New Year’s.  Although it is a new year, I’m looking at another familiarity.

It’s time to remember that I can’t do ministry on my own.  I’ve been in youth ministry for a long time – and in some respects, it’s like riding a bike.  When I first began learning the two-wheeled wonder, I had some crashes, some ugly starts and stops, and more than my fair share of bumps, bruises, and bandages.  But true to legend, the more I rode – the better I got.  Soon – I no longer gave it a second thought when I hopped on my bike.  I didn’t have to.  It was auto-pilot for me.  It’s not that I ever lost respect for the bicycle or the injuries sustained at its influence.  I was just confident that I had what it took to ride well – and any impending injury would be worth the ride.

Sometimes doing youth ministry is like that – it’s not that I’ve ever lost sight of the fact that Jesus works through me – or the holy calling that is youth ministry.  I’ve just become confident in my call and the worth of any bumps or bruises obtained in its pursuit.

There have been times, though, when even my experience wasn’t enough to keep me from teetering on two wheels!  Changes in venue or responsibility or life-stage…they always serve as a reminder that I am NOT on auto-pilot here.

2011 will be one of those moments.  And though I’m trepidatious and uncertain about my own ability to ‘ride this bike’ – I never doubt for a second that God knows all my days – planned out since before the day I was born.  He saw the end of this stage in my ministry before I saw the beginning.

I am stepping in to lead our church in the absence of a senior pastor. And God is reminding me that…

A) His plan for me is good (even when I question that.)  Romans 8.28

B) I need only take the next right step – I don’t need the entire path laid before me.  Proverbs  16.9

C) He loves His church – so this is on His shoulders, not mine. Ephesians 4.15-16

D) I can step outside my comfort zone confidently. Philippians 1.6

E) Though my job duties may change for a time, my call has not.  1 Peter 5.2-4

Thank God it’s that time again – we never ride more courageously than when we’re forced to ride without training wheels for the first time….

Get In The Water

Living on the beach, we are no strangers to powerful water. There is nothing more soothing, relaxing, calming than the sound of the ocean as it meets the beach, each time as though it were the first time. But this water was different.

This summer our students spent a week in Colorado hiking, rappelling, climbing, and rafting.   It was an amazing adventure experience – especially for our ministry, located at sea level,      with warm gulf water and sand dunes – to see God through the glory and grandeur of the Rocky Mountain range.

The first day there, we suited up for our eight mile hike.  The air was crisp and clean.  The fragrant mountain breeze cooled us, seemingly at our every request, as we hiked.  The trees provided a glorious canopy of shade since most of us felt even closer to the sun than usual.  The landscape was nothing short of miraculous.

Trees towered.  Pine needles blanketed the ground.  Boulders beckoned the weary to rest.  This landscape was so very foreign to beach dwellers.

Equally alien were the rushing rivers and streams.

Living on the beach, we are no strangers to powerful water.  There is nothing more soothing, relaxing, calming than the sound of the ocean as it meets the beach, each time as though it were the first time.  But this water was different.

Watching it rush through its designated route, I couldn’t help but think about God.

This water was powerful.  Pulling large stones from their hiding places.  Making rough edges smooth.  Sometimes creating a difficult route for fish to get where they thought they should be.

This water was renewing.  As I watched its mighty flow, it was obvious that what was in the water where I sat just a moment ago was now far downstream.  It made me wonder how much change the bank had seen as it sat silently watching the river-friend work its renewal.  Microbes swept away in the rushing current.  Tress that used to be upstream relocated downstream.  Silt carpeting the river bottom that once belonged to the mountain.  The water changes everything.

And then I thought about my students – seeing this kind of water, some for the very first time.  There was no doubt they could see its power – its renewing properties…even from far away.  At times, we were so far up the mountain that the stream looked like a ribbon of white flowing through the valley.  But you could hear the power in its voice as it sang its song to nature.  When we got close enough to sit at the water’s edge, there was no denying its powerful force as it rushed to its final destination.

And it broke my heart.  As I listened to the majestic water’s roar, watched it change everything in its path, I realized a devastating truth.

The water doesn’t really work if you don’t get in.  I am praying that my students experience the refreshing, renewing, life-giving water from a personal, intimate vantage point.

It is one thing to recognize how beautiful and glorious the rushing water is from the safety of shore.  It’s a completely different matter to allow the current to sweep you away – smoothing your rough edges – changing the direction you thought you were going – renewing everything.

I am praying that our students experience THAT kind of water – the deafening roar of life anew – the panic of going in a completely different direction than planned – life-altering, life-giving, living water.  I want them to know THAT kind of water long after we return to the beach waters of the gulf.

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