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….

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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