Weird Worship Wednesday: Taylor Swift’s 22

Music.  It just speaks my language.  It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, genre-specific, or disdained by the rest of the world.

It always has.  I’m a child of the 80’s – music was a secret code.  And we lived and died by lyrics we couldn’t even sing because they were unintelligible.

Because of that – and the fact that I’m just weird – I find worship in some weird places.  So I’m starting a new Wednesday blog series until I run out of music or something shinier catches my attention.  It’s the first of some…weird worship Wednesday.  Welcome to my world.

I decided to post this one first because I knew how much my boys would despise that I even have this on my iPod.  It’s OK – I can take the scrutiny of my peers AND my children.

I’ve been following Jesus for a long time…long before I turned 22. And every time I hear these lyrics, my heart is overwhelmed with His story of youth ministry and marriage and the long obedience in the same direction that a faith walk usually is. Think about it:

“Everything will be alright if You keep me next to You.” This life. Ugh. There are days when it just feels heavy. Truth be told – sometimes God is so silent, I wonder if He’s stopped speaking to me. But even on those hard days, as long as Jesus is hanging on to me (and more importantly, I’m hanging on to Him), I’m alright. He has me right next to Him – like a Dad crossing the street with His toddler. I have to remember not to wrench myself free from His grasp.

“You look like bad news. I gotta have You.” Choosing to follow Jesus with abandon means completely giving up control over my destiny. That’s a rough day for a control freak – and sometimes it makes the faith walk not the most pleasant trip I’ve ever been on. Some days, that makes Jesus seem like bad news. On more than one occasion, I’ve wanted to pick up my toys and go home. But I just can’t. I’m inexplicably drawn – and even though some of my days are filled with harsh realities – I gotta have Him.”

“It feels like one of those nights – we ditch the whole scene and end up dreamin’ instead of sleepin'” Oh, how I love this line!! One of the most profound joys I have is dreaming about youth ministry with Katie. After 26 years of doing ministry, there have been moments where I was on auto-pilot…getting done what I could do because I knew how to do it. But the BEST times have been stepping outside that realm of ‘ministry sleep’ and dreaming all the ways God could reach His hand into the families we meet!! I still love that part! It’s when the hand of God is most ‘real’ to me.

“Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22.” Twenty-two. I had just married my best friend in this whole world after four long years of chasing her down. We moved cross country with a U-Haul and first month’s rent – no jobs, no emergency fund, no family…no safety net of any kind. We were living on love and faith…and it was decidedly terrifying and terrific. But life started moving and we somehow became distracted by all the things in our peripheral vision. Our strongest, most solid days as a family, have always come when we kept dancing like we were 22. This journey is a faith journey – and most of the steps we take are along a path where the future is unclear. Sometimes, even the next step is a hazy one. And it’s always OK – because though the steps can seem unclear, the future is never uncertain.

“You don’t know about me – but I bet you wanted to.” OK….maybe not. I told you…weird worship Wednesday. Wait ’til next week. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Thanks, Taylor…for pointing me to Jesus in some weird way.

Transformation Tuesday: Mr. Bill

I’m highlighting some youth ministry ‘transformations’ each Tuesday.  (OK – who are we kidding….it doesn’t happen every Tuesday.  Stop judging me.)

I’m sharing this story from my good friend, Bill Freund, with his permission.  Sometimes youth ministry transforms kids.  And sometimes it transforms us!

IMG_6171 (1)Not everyone knows, but leaving our last church really took a toll on me personally.
I went to that church to serve alongside one of my best pastor friends.  Two years in there was a coup because a few families wanted a different style of leadership. He ended up resigning (and not letting me resign with him) and going on the mission field – where his heart is anyway. Our church hired a new pastor who, from day one, wanted a different kind of youth pastor.  Namely…younger.  Obviously, that was an unrecoverable problem for me.  I tried for 4 years to accommodate his requests save moving out of student ministry (which I was asked 3 times to do).  In my final 6 months the relationship deteriorated as I met regularly with one of the elders pleading for them to intercede. After repeated admissions of ‘we have no idea what to do’, the time came to make a change. Finally feeling the Lord’s leading (and without any job lined up), I resigned and almost before I could finish talking they hatched a plan for my departure and severance.  It seemed much easier for them to ‘know what to do’ with that than trying to find a way to help us work through our differences.
This started a period of pretty deep depression for me that I had never experienced before. I kept doing the right things but just feeling numb. To feel unwanted, primarily because of my age; left wondering if God was through with me being in youth ministry;  was I washed up?;  was my resume being tossed aside just because I’m 51?…..
God was in the process of transforming me and I wasn’t really liking it. We kept praying and seeking Him and asking for clear direction – and God answered VERY CLEARLY.  But we didn’t like the answer. God asked us to leave a community we’ve poured 23+ years of our life into (for my wife, Jean, 30+ years)??? Take Jean away from her family for the first time ever? Take our son (with Asperger Syndrome), who needs familiarity and consistency, to a new place with a zero friend base? CLEAR, but clearly not what we wanted. Like Abraham (rather than Jonah), we left our people, our family, our land and went to follow God’s leading to Castle Rock to love on students at a church there. And it came with much pain: financially we have no idea each month how we’re going to make it. Jean had some serious medical issues the first six months we were there. We struggled to find any who would volunteer to help with student ministry.  And our son ran away three times.
In the midst of this, God began doing amazing things in the lives of students – students like Kendra* & Jaqueline* who have come to know Jesus; students like Phillip* & Casey* who had been praying for months for a student ministry for them to grow deeper & wider in;  students like Alex, Brianna, Max, Liddy & JoAnna who had been cutting and are now getting help.  God is transforming and I could go on & on & on & on!~
Transformation means change & reformation.  It’s painful, yet beautiful!~
I feel like this pic depicts my new life excitement after transformation….
What’s your youth ministry story of transformation?  Let me share it!!  Shoot me an e-mail!
And if you’re in need of some transformation – check out this year’s Simply Youth Ministry Conference!  (It’s not too late!)
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