Thursday, December 16, 2010

Walk of the Magi Youth Group

Last night at youth group, our mid and senior high students met to do a lesson called "The Walk of the Magi." My goal in putting together this lesson was to help the youth prepare for the coming of the Christ child at Christmas and to help them understand more about Advent and the nativity.

Originally I had a good plan where they were going to "be the magi." But on Monday I received an email that convicted me to change my plans somewhat. See my post here for the details of that email! In the end, I took 6 of the characters of the nativity and the youth traveled through "stations" focusing on that person and a topic that went with it! I got lots of my ideas from this site and LOVE their work.

Here's a run down of what we did:

Station 1: The Wonder of Mary
One of my 10th grade students, Jordan Sommer, drew an outline of an icon of Mary.
At this station, students first learned what an icon is and then filled in the blanks of the drawing by cutting out Christmas ads (thanks to all the church members who brought these in). Using the Christmas ads helped the youth to consider the commercialism of Christmas that is so prevalent in our world today versus the true meaning of Christmas.


We didn't finish the project but Jordan did take it home to do some more work on it. When it is finished, we will display it in the Narthex and it should look something like this:



















Station # 2: The Obedience of Joseph


This staiton was an Advent prayer wall! Students read from Matthew of three examples where Joseph was obedient after angels appeared in his dreams. Often times that obedience meant waiting or that things would turn out differently than Joseph had planned. In Advent we wait for the birth of the Christ child; but sometimes it is hard to be obedient and wait.

There were two large pieces of newsprint on the wall that posed the questions: What are you waiting for this Advent season and what do you think God is waiting for? Youth were encouraged to write their anwers to these questions on sticky notes and post them on the wall.

Station # 3: The Joy of the Angels
At station 3, the youth considered the angels and read their announcement of the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:1-10. The youth were challenged with the following statements:

Why were the angels so joyful? We can imagine the nearly uncontrollable excitement in the voice of the angel that spoke to the shepherds. And we can imagine the shiver of wonder that must have filled the shepherds as they heard the resounding sound of the angelic multitudes praising God. But, what was the source of the angels’ joy? What did the birth of the Lord on earth mean to them?
The angels knew that the Lord’s birth was only the beginning. Jesus would grow from infancy to adult life. He would undergo continual battles and would eventually die on the cross. The completion of His work would come as He rose from the tomb on the first Easter. He became the light of the world; a light to our darkness.
God is calling us to be joyous as the angels and to be the light of the world today.





The youth were then given Christmas light bulbs with wire tied to the end to make a hook to make an ornament. The youth were aked to paint or draw on the light bulb what it means to be the light of the world!

Station # 4: The Eagerness of the Shepherds














When considering the shepherds, the youth were given Bibles and a comfy place to sit to the story in Luke 2:8-14. After they read the story, I posed the questions:

What would it take, do you think, for us to have peace on earth? Where are the places that really need peace right now? What relationships are required? How might God be part of bringing that peace through us?

The students then sat silently and offered prayers for eagerness and peace (in the world, in their schools, in theirr relationships, in our church, in their homes). Once they were finished praying, there were pitchers filled with water and an empty bowl. They were encouraged to pour a small amount of the water from the pitcher into the bowl. This represented the way all of our prayers become one in the eagerness of God’s love.

Station # 5: The Determination of the Magi



The magi likely traveled over 1000 miles to bring gifts to Jesus. That takes some determination. Today, we give gifts as Christmas as a reminder of their gifts.

In this season of shopping madness and gift-getting and giving, I reminded the youth that we should really consider an understanding of "gifts" that goes beyond the material goods that will be awaiting us under our Christmas trees.
Several months ago, we did a study at youth group on Spiritual gifts and each of the youth were given the chance to take an inventory to discover their gifts!

I asked the youth to look around the room and see who was there and what their gifts were. Then, write the other people's "gifts" and "talents" down on strips of paper. They were encouraged to do this several times and then make a paper chain out of the strips of paper. The paper chain was placed on the Christmas tree at this staiton. Later this week, I will undo the chain and mail the anonymous remarks to the youth whom they are about.

Station # 6: The Peace of the Christ Child


At this final station, the youth found a handout on the table, were asked to find a space to sit, and read the account of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2: 1-20). There were also questions on the handout for the youth to consider:

When you picture the story of Jesus’ birth, how do you imagine it? If you were there as character in the story, what do you think you would see? What would you smell? What would you hear? What would it be like for Mary to give birth in that place? What do you suppose Joseph is thinking/doing? What is the baby feeling or doing?

There was Advent/Christmas music playing and there was a slideshow of nativity images being projected on the screen. The youth were asked to sit in silence and ponder the evening.


Here are a couple of pictures from the evening:





Monday, December 13, 2010

Catchy Little Faith Phrases ....

I almost didn’t open it. With the Christmas just 12 days away and busy youth ministry week filled with an interactive Advent experience I’m designing for the youth on Wednesday night and our annual youth Christmas party of Sunday night, how could I take a moment to read an extra email? After all, I had already perused, responded, or deleted 72 emails by 10:00a.m. But, something drew me to the email and I opened it. The email came from the SC Synod staff and here is what the email said:

“May this Christmas find you filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child.”

-With love from your SC Synod office staff

5 little lines packed with an extra-ordinary message. Think about it! Read the lines again and ponder them!

I just love these (what I’m going to term) “catchy little faith phrases.” You know what I mean! You’ve heard them before! Like these ….

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”
“GRACE = God’s riches at Christ’s expense”
“Sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction!”
“With surrender, comes victory. That's the way God works.”

And I’m always on the lookout for inspiring phrases like these to share with others and to help make myself feel convicted! So, I thankful to get to share this one with you today.
And I wonder, which of these challenges speaks most to you today, this week, or this season of your life?

My prayer for each of my youth and parents is that you be filled with each of these, especially joy and peace! Advent Blessings!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yesterday I was moved to tears ... twice!

Suprise, suprise! But I am happy to report that this time, they were happy tears. I love Advent and worship during Advent. Both times I cried yesterday were during a worship experience. And, a little background you should know, I've been thinking a lot about my definition of worship lately; hence spurring this blog post. Honestly, I haven't thought much about it since my seminary class on worship. But then, over the past couple of weeks, worship and its meaning has been on my heart. And, then I was moved to tears during worship, twice yesterday. It's been a long time since the Holy Spirit has stirred me in that way during worship. And, it is good. God is good.

Of course, there are different types and ways to worship God. For me, types of worship was the most logical place to start when I began thinking about worship. If I'm being honest, I think I prefer contemporary or blended worship experiences (in general) because I love guitar music, I love to sing, and I love the relaxed, yet, respectful atmosphere. In fact, I was so interested in this topic that I decided to do my thesis paper and master's degree project on contemporary and blended worship and how to begin that type of experience in a church setting (and involve youth in it). And, then at the last church where I served, I led youth worship each Wednesday doing series like "Jesus Did What?" where we explored Jesus' life and example and its practicalness in the lives of youth. I've led silent worship expereiences on ski trips (this involved the ever popular twinkie/mayo trick ... just ask a youth about that). I've led worship services where we painted our offerings and praise to God and where I did mandala prayers with the youth. I love that creative aspect to contemporary worship and connecting youth (and myself) to God in creative, practical, and meaningful ways.

On the other hand, there's just something to traditional worship that is important to me also! In fact, life does not seem complete without the traditional worship during Advent / Christmas season. I'm sure this is because of the wonderful memories from my youthhood and familiar feelings that it stirs in my heart. Every Christmas Even when the candles are lit and lights turned off, I feel so connected to my dad (who died when I was 10) and happy tears flow! There's just something about hearing the organ as we sing traditional Christmas carols and about seeing the beautiful Chrismon trees and the Advent wreath being lit each week of Advent. It's just necessary for me.

But, that's precisely what I've been struggling with. Is worship about me? Should it be?

In seminary, my worship professor gave a metaphor for worship that really made sense to me. Dr. Meyers said that worship can be thought of like a play/actors. We (the congregation) are the actors. The worship leaders/pastors are the directors/stage hands. God is the audience.

I think that way of thinking about worship is spot on. But it flips my way of thinking about worship upside down. When I come to worship, personally, I prefer to walk away having "gotten something" out of the experience. And, usually, I do "get something" out of the worship expereience whenever, whereever, and however I worship.

Bottom line for me - worship should be a chance to praise God for the many blessings of my life and to thank God for God's activeness in my life. It should not be about me. However, often times through my authenic and sincere praise of God, I do get something back ... a conviction from the sermon, familiar memories stirred by the singing of a favorite hymn, etc.

Yesterday, we had the Christmas Cantata during our worship time! The choir was phenomenal. The orchestra was outstanding. It's beggining to feel a lot like Christmas! But, I was moved to tears when 8th grader, Savannah Wingard, sang her solo. In talking with Savannah prior to the worship service, I knew she was nervous, but I was very proud of her! Several months ago, I'm not sure if she would have so willingly stepped out of her comfort zone and praised God with her voice as she did. But yesterday, she did and she did an amazing job. I was moved to tears because that moment (and the rest of that worship service) was an authentic, honest moment of praising God.

I truly feel my heart is more "prepared" for the coming birth of Christ at Christmas after attending this year's Catata. And, I'll be honest, I was moved to tears because I couldn't help but think of the many things happening at Zion right now and the possibility that I might not get to experience another Christmas Cantata here as Savannah's (and the other 59 youth on rolls) youth minister. Not having the privelege to further feel and see God at work as Zion's students stretch, grow, and step out of their comfort zones isn't something I want to think about. But, I was moved to tears because I am confident that God has a plan and that God's plan is good. I was moved to tears because I can see God at work in Zion and because in that moment, I felt so lucky to have been a part of God's plan, here at Zion, for whatever amount of time it turns out to be (which is hopefully years and years more!). God is good.

The second time I was moved to tears was with the senior highs at "This Man Called Jesus" yesterday afternoon. The account of Jesus' life that the members of Lake Murray Baptist share is authentic and moving. It's not the first time that I've been to see it, but it was the first time for some of our senior highs. Throughout the experience, it was truly a privilege for me to sit and watch some of our 9th-12th grade students as they were awe-struck by the performance / worship serivce. I couldn't beleive how "glued" to the performance our youth were, barely taking their eyes off of the people acting out the life and times of Jesus Christ. It moved me to tears ... the music was solemn, it was during the crucifixion scene, our youth covered their mouths and one even shook her head in disbelief, and my tears flowed. These happy tears came because I knew the outcome of the scence and that even death would not defeat Christ. He loved me, each of the 9th-12th grade students with me, everyone in the room yesterday, and everyone period, so much that He endured such great pain and suffering. The tears flowed as I realized that because of that, this Advent season truly is a time of hope, mystery, love, joy, and miracles.

I couldn't need that hope, mystery, love, joy, and time of miracles more than I do right now. And, I couldn't be more undeserving of it. But the amazing thing is, for me, for my students, for Zion, for the world - none of that matters to God. There's nothing any of us could EVER do to make God not love and want us. Now, that certainly doesn't justify the things that we do that are wrong, but it does make the happy tears flow .....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy New Year, Church!

Happy new year, church! No! I realize it is not January 1st ... that's the secular new year. However, the church new year actually started yesterday with the first Sunday in Advent. It's a little confusing, I know. I've always though it would be much easier to make the two new year's coincide? It's VERY confusing, to me, actually. I've struggled with this since seminary, where I learned that the oldest celebration of New Year's was actually in Babylon around 4000 years ago! If I recall correctly, the Babylonian year actually began with the first full moon after the Equinox (first day of Spring) or sometime in March. And, that makes sense to me! Right? Spring = new beginnings/fresh growth, afterall!

This tradition of celebration a new year continued into the Roman Empire. But somewhere along the line, the Romans decided it would be better to syncronize the calendar with the sun and various emporers began changing dates around. This tampering continued until sometme around 45BC or 50BC, when Julius Caesar established the "Julian calendar." Caesar moved the new year date back to January 1st, where it remains today. He actually did this to honor Janus, the two-faced god who looked backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. As Christianity spread, often Christians and, especially, the Catholic church were hesitant (and even at times forbidden) to celebrate new year's because they thought it to be a pagan tradiaiton.

So, clearly, the liturgical (church) year and the calendar (world) year don't quite match up in thier cylce. The bottom line is they don't match up because the purpose of the Liturgical Year Calendar is not to mark the passage of time as is the purpose of the calendar. The liturgical / church calendar is meant to enable us Christians to celebrate and understand more fully the entire mystery of Jesus Christ, from His incarnation and birth until His ascension, and the expectation of his return in glory.

So really, this beginning of the liturgical calendar is very important! My favoirite liturgical calendar seasons are Advent and Lent!

Advent is the special 4 weeks just before Christmas. The purpose of Advent is is to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Jesus' birth. I don't know about you but I find it awfully hard, sometimes, to remember the real reason for the season! The world's view of Christmas is certainly different from the church's! That's why we had our Advent Adventure yesterday afternoon ... to help us understand Advent and get ready for Christmas! I'm so thankful for those who helped get ready and plan the event, for those who donated items, and for those who coordinated the stations/activiites. It was attended by many church members, youth, and children and we had a great time beginning to prepare our hearts for Christmas.

There are many other events happening during Advent to help us prepare for Christmas. I hope you and your families will come and be a part of some of these great events:

*The Purpose of Christmas Bible study (by Rick Warren)- this one is mostly for adults but senior high youth are also welcome! The group will meet on Wednesday nights from 6:30pm-7:30pm in the cathedral room.

*Advent worship services - meet Pastor Tim each Sunday in Advent at 6:30pm for inspiring worship

*Christmas Cantata - Sunday, December 5th. Music starts at 10:15am.

*Senior high youth group going to see "This Man Called Jesus" at Lake Murray Baptist church this Sunday, December 5th. Meet after the Cantata in the narthex. Bring $ for lunch!

*Children/youth Christmas play - 6:00pm on Sunday, December 12th. We'll be practicing on Sudnays and Wednesdays! Come be in it!! There are a few speaking parts left.

*Walk of the Maji Experience - for mid and senior high students on Wednesday, December 15th (6:30pm-7:30pm)

*Youth Christmas Party, Caroling, and Progressive Dinner - Sunday, December 19th for mid and senior highs!


I love this time of year. Always have, always will. Thanks for sharing in it and preparing for Christmas with me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Attack of the Lizards!

It’s Thanksgiving week! I’d planned to share in this week’s devotion around the topic of thankfulness. And, I am thankful, now more than ever, for A LOT of things - like my relationship with God, my son, my family, the students and youth leaders with whom I get to share in ministry, my church, my health (after being so sick last week and a scare of a staph infection with Blaine this week), new friendships, and so much more. But, over the past five days, I’ve been attacked by lizards! So, that is what I am sharing about on this Thanksgiving week. Read on ….

I don’t really like lizards. Even when I was a little girl, I just wasn’t interested, like some of my friends, in the game of trying to pull the lizard’s tail off. When I see a lizard, quite frankly, it frightens me/gives me the hebejebees and I just want to remove myself from its presence. I don’t know why this is. I know in my head (and from my bachelor’s degree in Biology) that lizards are relatively harmless; at least here in South Carolina. But I just don’t like lizards (or mice or squirrels or …. well … any rodents)

So, you can imagine my dismay when (lizard number one and I) faced off early last week in my kitchen. Let’s call him Charley. So, when I saw Charley, every fiber in my body tensed up and I found myself praying that he go out the door and not up the stairs or anywhere else in the house. I stood paralyzed …. what to do? I got the bright idea to slowly move past Charley toward the laundry room, get the fly swatter, and get him outside. He climbed right on and I thought I was home free. But then, something spooked him and he jumped. Fearing he was going to jump on me, I screamed and dropped the fly swatter and ran. Once I gained my composure, I managed to get him back on the fly swatter, out the door, and I chunked him over the fence (sorry little guy). Done.

Not done.

The next day, there was a second lizard in the kitchen. Let’s call this one Bob. Bob’s tail had been ripped off and was just beginning to regenerate; so I felt a little sorry for him. Consequently, I saved him from certain death / attack of my dog and went for the fly swatter again. He hopped right on and out the door I sent him. But, before I could chunk him over the fence to be his buddy (Charley), he jumped off the fly swatter and scrambled under the back deck . Done?

Nope.

Yesterday afternoon I was doing some work in the office before senior high youth group. I was making copies and gathering supplies for different events this week. Busy and then boom! There he sat, startling me, on top of the computer monitor in the front office. About that time, several of the senior highs arrived and they scooped him up (yes, in their hands) and placed him out in the grass beside the office. I’ll affectionately remember this lizard as Gus. Done?

Round four.

Meet Michelle. I met her, this morning, as I walked in to my kitchen. Again, catching me off guard, this lizard was on the baby gate that I use to block off the laundry room. I went to move the baby gate and hello …. paralyzed, again, I went for the fly swatter. But Michelle, had other plans. She was a fighter! She wasn’t having anything to do with the fly swatter and being moved out of my house, back to her natural habitat. I tried and I tried but Michelle kept jumping and running and moving to new parts of the baby gate. Finally, I took a deep breath and picked up the baby gate and slowly moved it outside. As soon as I laid the gate down, off Michelle jumped and scurried under the back deck.

I wondered what is going on. Why are there are there so many lizards out of their natural habitat? Is it birthing time for lizards or something? So, I googled “why are there lizards in my house” and “lizards in South Carolina” and “lizards.” And, I learned some things I didn’t know and one thing in particular that can relate to our Christian lives.

Apparently, the lizards are coming inside because it is getting colder outside. I’ve never had a lizard issue in my house before, so I’m not completely sure I buy this as the only reason. Nonetheless, Charley, Bob, Gus, and Michelle came inside seeking comfort (warmth and food). This is much like our relationship with God, right? We come to the Holy One in search of comfort, love, and peace. For example, when times get hard (i.e. cold weather for the lizard), we tend to move closer to God in prayer. The challenge is to remember God's presence in our lives more than during just the rough times; to be caught off guard by the movement of God in our lives, daily!

Another interesting fact about the lizard has to do with their tails. A lizard’s tail helps it in balance and movement. As I could tell from my struggles with Gus (balancing on top of the computer monitor) and Michelle (moving quickly through the tines of the baby gate), balance is very important for a lizard when trying to escape and “enemy.” Further, the tail of a lizard is where fat is stored and thus energy comes from when needed. So, losing a tail could become a real problem for a lizard.

Finally, a most interesting surprise about the lizard’s tail! When it is bumped or pulled off by the “enemy,” it will wriggle around, confusing the “enemy,” and the lizard can get away safely. And, most lizards can regenerate their tails. I think this is a great lesson for us to take in relation to our Christian journey and the enemy (a.k.a. Satan/sin). When we are faced with “attack,” God equips us and gives us the tools for a great escape! As long as we are active in claiming our relationship with God for ourselves, God will “regenerate” our abilities to escape the enemy.

I don’t like lizards. But, I am thankful for Charley, Bob, Gus, and Michelle (the lizards I have encountered this week) and the theological example that lizards bring to the table this Thanksgiving. Pun intended!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Zion Students This Week | 11.08.10

The Test

This past Wednesday and Sunday, we focused on stewardship at mid and senior high youth groups. As a part of our study of using our time, talents, and gifts, our 6th-12th grade students were given the opportunity to take a spiritual gifts inventory. The goal was that this “test” will help them understand some of the talents they have and the ways they can share some of their talents with Zion Lutheran Church. If you didn’t get to take the inventory, you can access it here to either take it online or print it out and take it:

http://www2.elca.org/christianeducation/programplanners/2005CEProgramPlanner/spiritualgifts.html

Despite its length (it’s hard to focus for that many questions), I really do like this inventory and the resources that go with it! It offers a perspective on one’s spiritual and relational talents. That same site offers a resource in the youth category called “Using Your Gifts.” Once the inventory is taken, this sheet tells a little more about how one can use their spiritual and relational strengths.

Some of the Zion youth who took this “test” shared their results with me. Knowing what I know about several of these students (and teens in general), I expected our students to receive high scores and to be talented in areas of gifts like music, leadership, and even service. However, there seems to be a common theme from the results of many of the Zion teens who took the inventory. Many of them scored high in the categories of relational gifts over spiritual gifts. In particular in that relational category, many of the youth have their top gifts in listening and intergenerational openness.

For me, this speaks volumes, especially in the area of intergenerational openness. In my master’s degree work, I studied lot about adolescent growth and development, in addition to faith development of teens. Adolescence is a time of rapid physical, intellectual, social, and emotional growth. And, as most of us could probably guess, a typical characteristic of teenage development is discovering their self identity and expressing that identity to others. Often, this leads to a “breaking away” from parents and various expressions of asserting independence. While often times this is trying on families and parents, this is actually a very healthy and normal teenage experience.

From time to time, as their youth minister, youth share things with me that they don’t feel comfortable sharing with their parents. For this very reason, having an adult role model, that is trustworthy, is so important for teenagers. And barring any harm from what they share may cause to themselves or another, a smart youth minister would not break the confidence of a teenager. On the other hand, not every teenager will connect with their youth minister. I’ve not met a youth minister, yet, who had a daily/weekly, strong, personal, wonderful connection with every youth on their church’s roster. It’s just not possible.

Can they be cordial and friendly? Sure! But this is part of the key to having adult church members serve as volunteers in a church’s youth ministry. While I (the youth minister) may not have an instant connection with every youth in the church, I bet I can find an adult in our church who does! That is a fascinating part of ministry for me! In the past 9 years of doing youth ministry, I have loved promoting and seeing the relationships formed between youth and youth ministry volunteers. I have loved (and do love) the connections I have made. It is truly a visual representation of the vows we (as a church) say when we baptize our children … that we are going to love and support them (and their parents) as they grow up in the Christian faith.

I am so thankful for the volunteers at Zion who have stepped forward to be in relationship with our youth – those who help with youth group, teach Sunday school, go on trips, cook meals with or for our students, and so much more! The good news is, according to the gifts and talents of our youth, Zion students are very open to this intergenerational connection. What an exciting place and situation to share in ministry!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TODAY AND TOMORROW!

I have heard it said, over and over that our youth of today are the future of our church. I’m not sure that I agree with statement, whole-heartedly. Yes, it is a fact that some today’s youth will grow up, go off to college, come back, get married, have children, and will be the adults of tomorrow’s church. And, I’d like to think that we’re instilling the priority to our youth that even if they don’t come back to Zion Lutheran Church they would be a part an active part of some Christian church, somewhere. But, I think there is more to it ... I think our youth are not only the church of TOMORROW but they should be, in fact, known as the church of TODAY.

I mean, just think about some of the leaders in the Bible who were young. They actually teach some really good lessons. Here are three examples:

First, there was David. Come on, he killed an intimidating, skilled, giant of a man. You’ll remember that young David, not even old enough to be in the army, came to the “front lines” (at the request of his father) to bring some food to his brothers and check on them. When David got there, he simply looked at the problem (of the Philistine army / Goliath), faced his own limitations, prayed to God for help, and defeated Goliath. The lesson? “Young” David despite his age and lack of experience figured out how to use the skills he did have! After all, he was a shepherd-boy and he defended his sheep all the time against wild animals. David’s gifts? A cool head and an inventive brain. Don’t those same characteristics apply to some of the youth of today?

Then there’s Mary. Young, pregnant, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Can you imagine being young and in a situation not well accepted by society? Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing, judging, or suggesting any of our youth should willingly get themselves into situations not accepted by society. However, I am suggesting “young” Mary’s actions in the situation were heroic. When Mary found herself and her family in a stressful and unfortunate (by societal standards) situation, she was able to accept that God had a plan for her even though she couldn’t understand it. And, I think there is a lesson we can take from Mary when she found herself in this troublesome situation. Mary connected with a mentor, Elizabeth. Mary sought her mentor’s guidance, thoughts, and support. On the other hand, Elizabeth listened and learned a lot from Mary; and Mary was, in turn, a support to Elizabeth.

And, what about Timothy? Timothy has been a traveling companion of Paul. The influence that he had over the early Christian church became extra-ordinary. But, Timothy, was very young for a church leader; we know this because Paul tells him “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for other believers!” (1 Tim 4:12). In the two letters sent to Timothy by Paul, Timothy appears as timid, perhaps because of his relative youth. On the other hand, it is believed that Timothy became the first bishop of Ephesus, and that he was martyred there in 97 AD. The lesson? We can’t lead people where we ourselves have never been. Paul taught that to Timothy. So how can we expect our youth to lead the church tomorrow, if we don’t TEACH them and INCLUDE them and TRUST them in the decision making processes of today?

There are modern day examples, too! These are examples of “young” leaders from our congregation who are, truly, setting the example from 1 Timothy 4:12 (please note: there are many I could share; I’ve limited myself to 3 examples but I am proud of all of my students).

Take Christian, an 11th grader. He and some of his friends dressed up and went trick or treating last night! According to Christian’s mom, Christian and his friends ran into another mom who started interrogating them, thinking they may be the older kids who snatched her 11 year old son's candy and ran with it. After talking to Christian and his friends, this mom realized it was not them. Here’s the extra-ordinary part of the story. After this conversation, Christian and his friends filled a bag with all of the candy they had collected and took it over to the little boy’s house. Nope, it’s not saving the world. But, they did “save” that little boy’s world and probably sparked a Halloween memory for that little boy that he will not soon forget and may one day share with his children.

Don't forget, Kara, a 12th grader. She was very frustrated and offended by some bullying that was going on in one of her classes at school. Several times, Kara “stood up” to the bullies in the class and asked them to stop picking on another student. Kara was able to be proactive in the situation and help stop the negative behavior that was hurting another student. Nope, she didn’t save the school from a terrorist or anything, but she did stop one student from being terrorized and isn’t worried about what those bullies think about her for standing up to them.

What about Jordan, a 10th grader. Jordan has been a part of Zion for over 10 years and is in her second year of serving on our student leadership team. Jordan is running for church council this year. Jordan is a great example of perseverance, for me, because she has acknowledged the fact that because of her (and the youth of Zion’s) age, teenagers are often looked down upon or not taken seriously. Jordan KNOWS and MAINTAINS and is EXCITED that the youth of our church could have a voice on church council. Jordan and the youth are excited for an opportunity for the youth to step up and become a part of the Zion decision making process.

Considering these past and modern day examples, it seems that teenagers are actively engaged in being the church of today, not just tomorrow. I am very proud of the students with whom I share in ministry and I am excited that, together, we will grow and make a difference in the world!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Woman in Front of Me

Yesterday’s Gospel lesson was from Luke 18 – you know the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector who were each in the temple praying. The tax collector was very ashamed of his sins and couldn’t even look to God. But, the Pharisee was praying something like “God I am so thankful that I am not like ‘those’(i.e. the tax collector) other people; I do what I’m supposed to and follow the rules, and I’m just awesome!”

This got me thinking.

Have you ever had one of those moments? You know the moment where you try to justify doing something you know you shouldn’t do or where you compare yourself to other people to build yourself up or where you judge yourself to be better in some way than another … We’ve all done it! I have! Certainly when I was a teenager, this was commonplace in my life. I think that is part of the process of growing up and gaining one’s self identity and self esteem. It’s a natural tendency. But, even as an adult and as much as I don’t want to admit it, I still catch myself in these situations from time to time.

Picture it … I was shopping. After all, I really needed some new pants. I went from store to store. When I finally found some that I liked, I wanted to get one in every color they had and call it a day. But I didn’t. I did, however, make my way to the register with 2 pairs of pants. All the while I was contemplating if I should really even get either one of them. After all, Christmas is only two months away and I could wait for a coupon to come out. But on the other hand, the pants were on sale (10% off is better than nothing, right?) and they had my size in stock.

When I got to the register, the woman in front of me had, I’m guessing, about $300 or so worth of purchases she was making. As she was handing item after item to the clerk, I heard her say something like “Well, I really don’t NEED these but they are just so cute, I HAVE to buy them. I’ll probably never wear them, though.” And, “My husband is going to be so mad at me, I didn’t get him anything … oh … hold on – there’s a nice shirt, I’ll get him that.”

I began to think to myself, how I probably didn’t need to spend my money on these two pairs of pants. But, at least I wasn’t like the woman in front of me, needlessly buying something I would never wear.
And there I was … looking down on someone else and judging myself to be better than her. When I heard this Scripture Sunday, it make me think - I was worse off than the woman needlessly spending money because of my judgment of her.

Jesus' message / lesson through this parable is simply stated. I love The Message version of the Bible and that lesson in verse 14 of this 8th chapter. “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” I also like the Contemporary English Version’s translation: “If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.”
When I thought about the shopping situation and this verse from Sunday, it was a real slap in the face; a real wake up call that I need to be more humble. It’s a challenge for me. Recently, I took a spiritual gifts inventory that confirmed this. My lowest score was in mercy (and skilled craft). That’s a real growing edge for me!

So, I’m praying for myself. I need to be more like the tax collected and pray for God to give me the know-how and strength to be more merciful, non-judgmental, and compassionate. I mean, after all, I didn’t know the woman in front of me or her life story. Maybe she won the lottery. Maybe her house burned down and she was replacing her clothes. Maybe this was money she had worked really hard to save and was now enjoying spending it on herself and her husband. And, at least she thought to buy her husband something … in the first place!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Margaret and Lucy

I am sad. I’m sad because a terrible thing happened and there was a funeral. Don’t get me wrong, I understand death is a part of life and I’ve experienced the death of people that I am close to in my childhood and in my adult life. I’m no expert on death or anything but I do understand how one feels when losing someone they love and the life-long mourning and journey of personal healing that comes with the experience of death. After all, my father was killed by a drunk driver when I was ten years old. And, all of my grandparents have died between my college and young adult years; most recently my grandmother just over two years ago.

But, for me today, this is a different kind of sad. It is a heart-wrenching, deep, belly aching sadness. Tears don’t help. It’s a kind of sadness that I’ve not experienced before. It’s funny that the Lectionary Scripture on Sunday was Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestles with God, because God and I are in a full on match right now.

I’m not going to lie, I expect to have a perfect little life; unfortunately, for me, it doesn’t ever seem to work that way. Bad things happen; a lot. And, these bad things seem to usually happen to good people. Yesterday I learned that two of my friends who were about 5 months pregnant with twins, lost both of their daughters. So, yep I said it, I’m angry with God over God allowing two of God’s perfect, beautiful creations to be taken away from their parents before they were even out of the womb. I’m angry that I couldn’t be there to help in some way and to grieve with my friends.

Margaret and Lucy’s parents are the kindest, most caring and loving examples of a human being I know and they don’t deserve this. I was lucky enough to meet Jenn and Graham when they became members of the last church where I served as youth minister. Not only did I get to share in ministry with Jenn and Graham (as they served as youth volunteers), but I also had a friendship with them outside of church. They adored my son, Blaine, and he, them. You see, Jenn and Graham had this “swagger” about them. Many of the children of that church, including Blaine, would run up to Graham and hug him each Sunday … it sort of became a ritual for several of them. And the youth were very attracted and connected with Jenn and Graham. These two amazing adults were two of the greatest role models I’ve met. When I left my position at that church a year and a half ago, Graham even served as the interim youth director! Jenn and Graham loved (and still love) the youth of that church. They have a gift for youth ministry and they showed (and still show) that love and share that gift by being a consistent and positive presence in the life of those 6th-12th graders.

As I struggle with God about why such bad things happen to such good people, I realized there is a more fundamental issue for me. It’s also an issue I’ve seen with many of the 6th-12th graders I’ve shared and am sharing in ministry with. When these bad things happen to us or people we know, we tend to judge God's goodness by those circumstances. But, when you think about it that is not a really fair judgment … is it?

I believe it is only natural to question God’s goodness from time to time in our lives. Like - why doesn’t God intervene, why didn’t God save Jenn and Graham this pain? I also believe that sometimes we CAN understand the reasons why bad things happen: the brakes failed, the terrorists hated us, or the cancer had spread too far. But sometimes it gets complicated; sometimes we just don’t understand, as in this case for me.

My guess is if I asked Jenn and Graham about the situation, they would be very sad and I know they are grieving and in pain. But I also don’t think they are yelling "why me?" at God. I know that sounds silly. But, knowing Jenn and Graham and their strength and goodness, they probably see the bigger picture of "why not me?” and eventually “how can we grow and see the positives of the experience?”

Last week I was leading a Bible study based on Rob Bell’s NOOMA series. The lesson was called “Matthew.” You can view a preview of the video below:



The bottom line is (as Rob Bell states) “Whatever you’re feeling in the moment, it’s okay.” But, I don’t think we can judge God purely based on those feelings. God is good, just, loving, and merciful and I know from personal experience how easy it can be for us to lose sight of that in the midst of our pain.

As I imagine Jenn and Graham and how they are dealing with the death of their twins, I imagine that the example we will all see from them is that instead of doubting God's goodness, they are trusting. Trusting - this is a remarkably difficult thing to do. Will Jenn and Graham struggle and wrestle with God to get there? Absolutely! But I am reminded through Genesis 32 that struggling “to get there” means that we are growing. These two remarkable strong individuals will one day be even stronger.

So when these bad things happen to people we know, what can we do / how can we help? Isn’t that just like us human beings? I mean, I don’t know what I can do but I want to help; I want to make it better for Jenn and Graham (even though I know I really can’t). This is one thing that I am struggling with in my current battle with God because the answer is not one I want. The answer? Be present. Be silent. Listen.

In the video (not seen in the preview above), Rob Bell speaks about an ancient Jewish practice called “sitting shiva.” In this practice, when you know someone who loses someone whom they love, you go to their house and you just sit with them. You sit in silence and when/if they want to talk, you listen. So, Jenn and Graham, I am here. I am praying for you daily. I love you. I am here when you are ready for whatever you need.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Stroller

Just over a year ago, I was contemplating a move to another town in South Carolina (little did I know God had other plans for me). At my realtor’s suggestion, I packed up most of the “extras” and “clutter” of my house and neatly stacked the boxes in the garage. Before I could stack the boxes, I had to clear out all of the “junk” from the garage that was 7 years worth of accumulation. But, you know what “they” say: “One man’s junk is another’s treasure.” So, I had a yard sale! At that yard sale, I couldn’t bare to part with my (then) four year old’s baby seat and matching stroller. I knew Blaine would NEVER again be able to fit in the stroller, but it just seemed the best place for it was to sit in my garage and accumulate dust and spider webs.
This past weekend, my sister and mom had a yard sale. I planned to try and sell my old washing machine there and as I went out to the garage to clean it off and get it ready, I began to look around my garage. Remember, it’s only been a year or so since I cleaned it out and organized it … As I looked around I realized there was more new “stuff” and I couldn’t figure out where it came from or how my garage had gotten so disorganized and cluttered, AGAIN! As I started to look through the “stuff,” there was that baby seat and stroller. Yep, you guessed it – to the back of the car and over to my sister’s it went.
I’d thought about how much I wanted someone to pay for it and settled on $50 for the set. After all, I’d originally paid over $200.00 for it! But, secretly, I was hoping that no one would ask about it or purchase it. And, until around 11:00a.m. that was working quite nicely for me; I was sure that in about an hour, I’d be packing it pack in my car and returning it to my garage.
I noticed her because she had beautiful red hair and was clearly of Irish decent, but was speaking Spanish and translating for the women with whom she had arrived. They would look at the baby clothes and other toys my sister had out. Then the red headed young woman would ask Jessica a question and tell the others in Spanish what Jessica’s answer was.
About that time, another woman came up and asked about the stroller. She didn’t want the baby seat, just the stroller, so I told her $30. She went to make a phone call to friend she knew might want the stroller but had to leave a message. She was convinced her friend might call back and so she was waiting and continued to look. About that time, I had to walk away for a moment and the red headed woman and her friends asked my sister about the cost of the stroller and seat. Since Jessica had just heard me tell the other woman $30, she told them $30. But, Jessica didn’t know the other woman didn’t want the car seat.
When I returned, Jessica told me what was going on and I was, honestly, a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going to get the full $50 for both pieces, should this red headed lady decide she want to purchase the stroller. But as I watched what unfolded next, I was so impressed with the way these ladies were truly living in community; it reminded me of the characteristics of the early Christian church how they lived in community.
We read in Acts about how willing the early church went about helping one another. See Acts 2:44-47. All the Lord's followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. Verse 45 says: “They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it” (CEV). The main idea is that they were willing to give up all that they had so that others (their own family in Christ) would not have to go without.
As it turned out, the young red headed woman had just given birth to a baby, two weeks ago. This is why she was interested in the stroller. But, apparently, she did not have enough money to purchase the stroller because she had already purchased a car seat cover from my sister. She asked my sister if she could return the car seat cover and my sister said yes. After this, another of the Spanish speaking women purchased the car set cover for the red headed woman. About this time, another of the Spanish speaking women, went out to her car and came back with a $20 bill and gave it to the red headed woman. Still another of the Spanish speaking women, made her purchase of some clothes and gave her “change” to the red headed woman. She handed me the $30 and pushed the stroller away.
While all of this was going on, I had a few moments to prepare myself for the departure of the stroller. I know this is silly … but, emotionally, I thought it would be a hard thing to see the stroller and car seat rolled away and placed in someone else’s car. After all, letting go of the stroller meant I have to admit I have a big boy, kindergartner now, right? And that means I’m getting older. And that means, before I know it Blaine will be off to college. And that means things are changing. And that means … well, you see my thought pattern here, right? But I sat stunned, yet at peace, as these four women walked out of the yard side by side - laughing, talking, and happy for all they had accomplished together. I’m sure they thought they got a good deal on all they left my sister’s yard with (and they did), but more than that they gave and shared all they had, so that another could benefit. What a great lesson God spoke and challenged me with through these ladies.
Might I do a better job at remembering, every day, how blessed and lucky I am to live in community with such good friends, family, and in my church. Might I strive to be more like those Spanish speaking women who would do anything to help their red-headed “sister.”

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pray with Me?

This week at youth groups, we are electing our student leadership team members! Sunday, at our senior high youth group, we began our time together with a devotion on leadership. The students listed several qualities of being a leader and then we discussed how Jesus exemplified each of the characteristics they listed. Bottom line - we should strive to model our lives and ourselves as leaders after the example of Jesus. Afterall, it's all about example, right?! You may be the only Jesus somebody knows.
Also, this morning, in our stewardship Bible study, we were challenged to make a list of all of the things of which we should be good stewards (i.e. our bodies, our church, our money, our time, our attitude, our environment, and more!).
These two conversations convicted me to thinking further about myself and about three personal challenges I have been considering lately. I am challenged arond being a good steward of my time, attitudes, and priorities. I bet most of our students (and parents, for sure) can relate to these challenges!
For me, I've been convicted about being a good steward of my time and priorities, in part, because we hear so much about all of the miraculous healings Jesus was a part of in Bible stories. But, then I heard a challenge to consider the fact that Jesus frequently left people unhealed. Upon further investigation I realized that, quite often, Jesus said "no" to good things! I have a very hard time saying "no" to anything. What a great example to consider in today's busy, busy, busy culture.
As Blaine and I are living in to this new lifestyle of a 7:45pm bedtime (since he began kindergarten this year), I've been forced to saying "no" to friends and fun things, to meetings, and to many other options. Does time and priority challegne you? Do you feel convicted to say "no" to sport team practice or other extra-curricular activities on Wednesday nights so you can focus on your discipleship at youth group? Do you sleep in on Sunday morning or do you take moment to worship God with your church family? I heard a challenge today by the hip hop artist Jason Petty a.k.a. "Propoganda." When I was a teenager I loved to sleep! And there is not much better than a lazy Sunday morning! But this artist's statement is clear and profoud! He said (in the middle of sharing this epic poem) "You can chase down dreams or you can catch up on sleep." Click below to view the performance.



I'm also challenged about my attitude frequently. I mentioned in the front page devotion I wrote for our students in our October Student Ministry newsletter that I am a very emotional person and that because of that a growing edge for me is to think before speaking.
I've been especially challenged about being a good steward of my attitude in relation to the recent congregational survey at our chuch and an upcoming church-wide conversation about the results (this Sunday). I want to have and have been praying for the attitude of helping fix any issues for our congregation and discern the best way to move foward and bring excitement to Zion. On the other hand, it could seem that it would be much simpler and less challenging to just sit back and watch or remove ourselves from the conversation altogether. But, that would be too easy! And, I certainly don't think that is the approach Jesus would have taken. Does that challenge you?
I pray that our students and parents will join me in the challenge of being a good steward of our time, attitudes, and priorities as our church body gathers this Sudnay afternoon at 4:30pm to disuss the survey results and discern how to move foward at Zion Lutheran Church! Pray with me?

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Drink in Your Hand

Over the weekend our 6th-12th grade students were invited to attend a fall retreat at a near-by Lutheran Retreat Center. While at Camp Kinard, I invited our students to focus on unity, community, and visioning for the year. I pushed the youth who did attend to discern what kind of community we want to be this year (as a youth group) and to name and claim some of the things we will do over the school year. We also focused on our call to serve others and to be a united group, all the while “plugged in to God”.

We did many fun activities to promote bonding as a total student ministry and separately as middle and high school groups. Saturday, our two groups, individually, spent time on the ropes course. But, Friday night we all met together for a game of Fear Factor, some singing/dancing, and we picked a theme for our group to focus on for the year. The groups voted and decided to work with the Scripture from Matthew 4:19: Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you (The Message).

On the way to camp Kinard I challenged the students to a “random acts of kindness” type of scavenger hunt. The had from the time we left Zion to the time we got to Camp Kinard to complete as many random acts of kindness as they could (up to 26) … one for every letter in the alphabet. The youth had to work in teams and be as creative as possible with this task. When we got to Camp Kinard, we talked about some of the things the youth had done. Some of the accomplishments included: holding the door for someone, offering to take someone’s tray to the trashcan, let someone go ahead of me in line, smiled at someone I didn’t know, picked up trash on the ground at the restaurant where we ate dinner. I explained to the youth that implementing random acts of kindness in our daily lives could, potentially, impact unity in the world. If we start with the small things, like smiling at someone, eventually giving, being good stewards, and kindness become second nature for us.

I began to think about this as I was driving to church this morning. Most mornings, I drive a very popular stretch of I-20 in Columbia (during rush hour) to get across town to my office. There is this stretch of about 4 or 5 miles getting in to Columbia that always backs up. There is not usually a wreck or anything, it’s just a matter of everyone on the outskirts of the city needing to get in to the city. The main problem I’ve noticed recently is that people tend to tailgate the car in front of them so that traffic from Clemson Road can’t easily merge on to I-20 and the congestion is further promoted. Usually I just try to stay in the left hand lane so that I don’t have to deal with the merging.

This morning, about a mile before Clemson Road, I could see the traffic backed up. I decided to make it my mission to stay in the right hand lane and commit some random acts of kindness. My plan was to let as some cars merge on to I-20 as I made my way through the intersection. I was proud of myself for remembering my challenge to the youth to change their norm in small ways in hopes of it becoming second nature. Just then, a song I love came on the radio. If you know me, you know that I LOVE to sing in the car! So, I started jamming and before I knew it I was in the middle of the intersection where merging was happening. I realized I was speeding up quickly and then tailgating the car in front of me so that the people margining couldn’t get on to I-20. That’s always been my driving habit. I figure if I let them in, it will make me later than I already am. Selfish! I know … I don't WANT to be this way, but without focus, I am.

This morning, I lost my focus and failed at my goal. So, I’ll try again tomorrow morning. As I drove the rest of the way to my office, I thought about what had happened. I had lost my focus, gotten distracted. Isn’t it so easy to do? Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Isn’t this like life? Isn’t this like our devotion to God? Isn’t this like our giving to the church?

This morning in our stewardship Bible study, our group focused on Scripture from Matthew 6:21: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We talked about the ability to make your heart feel something it won’t. We discerned that this is possible; but it requires a change of attitude, flat out pretending, or changes from within.

A perfect example - over the weekend, I was walking in downtown Columbia at dusk. As I passed by a homeless man in a wheel-chair, I smiled and said hello. The person behind me offered the drink in his hand to the homeless man. Honestly, it didn’t even dawn on me to offer the one I had in mine. I want to be more like the person behind me who didn’t just pass by someone in need but offered something simply.

The bottom line is that in life we have to decide what kind of person we want to be and then give our time, talents, treasures, attitudes, minds, everything we are and everything we have to it. It’s not simple; it’s certainly not one of those black and white areas of life. But, how differently unified the world would be if more people offered the “drink in their hands” or if more people taught their children to do the same.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wednesday Night Programs at Zion!

Don't miss our kickoff celebration tomorrow (Wednesday), September 24th from 5:45pm-7:30pm.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Senior High Mission Trip - Day 5 by Jordan Sommer

We went to a new house today! We painted the exterior of it. The house was actually pretty nice compared to the other ones we've been to this week. The lady who owns it inherited it from her parents when they died. But, soon after she and her husband moved in, he passed away and she was left with two kids to raise and the house went on the back burner. She's putting herself through college so, of course, home repairs are hard to do. Today, she got new windows, paint and porch railings.

For our activity we went on the beach tonight and had a worship service. Everyone had to bring an object from the job site that symbolized their experience as a servant this week. We each took turns explaining the significance of our objects and what we learned about each other, God, and ourselves this week. We are each going home different than when we came! The objects we each brought - we super glued them to a cross we made out of wood from the site. During worship, we took turns and served each other communion. Pastor Tim had consecrated the box of bread mix and juice druring worship on Sunday and we cooked the bread this morning.

To view pictures of our day, go to our facebook page!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Senior High Mission Trip - Day 4 by Justin Hall

So today was a lot more hard on all of us than we thought it would be. We all got up at around 6 this morning. However, we got through the day and got a lot done for a days work. We arrived at the work site at 8:00am.

The guys worked on the roof and it was so hot!!! I can say for all of us that the guys got the hottest job of the day. We took some vents for the roof and put them down and in the process we kinda screwed some things up but it all worked out just right.

So the girls had to paint the exterior of the house(outside). And wrap the outsides of the windows with tape and plastic. Then when us guys got done we all got off the roof and helped the girls out with the painting.

So for our lunch break we had pb&j and turkey sandwhiches it really hit the spot on a hot day of work. We had a long lunch break because it was sooooo hot. We bring our lunch and drinks to the site each day. It is nice to sit and hang out at lunch!

We had tacos for supper and our "out of your comfort zone dinner" hallenge for today was that we couldnt feed ourselves we had to feed eachother. We all split up and had a good time with that. Tonight for our message Jillianne is going to talk about being the light of christ and we are palying glow in the dark dodge ball. For our dessert we had peach cobbler and it was AMAZING!!

Here are some pictures from our day! To see all of them, go to our facebook page!

-Justin








Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Senior High Mission Trip - Day 3 by Casey McIntosh

So we got through day 3 of our mission trip (work day number 2)! It was EXTREMELY hot and of course the clouds didn't do much for us :(

Today, we all went back to the houses we had been working on. Us girls washed the lady's house and finished up putting in the floor. The boys finished putting in windows, put vinyl around the house, and also put in new air ducts. When they were done, they came to our house and helped us.

After we finished up the house, we went to another house where we pressure washed the it and started painting. However, the house had to dry before we can paint it's exterior (tomorrow). So, we got to leave a bit early today so we came back to the church and changed into our bathingsuits and headed to the beach!

Jillanne's first activity was for us to tie a string around our wrists and talk about our day then throw the yarn to another person so we were tangled up like in a web. She then told us to eat while we were all tied together! It was so hard! Everyone had to move at the same time just to walk! It was really funny though. Then we tried to play frisbee all tangled up like that! We also made sand scultpures of ourselves.

The lesson for tonight was about being a part of the body of Christ (i.e. why we had to eat dinner all tied together) and about the importance each of us serves in the body of Christ!

For dinner, we ate hotdogs, potatoe salad, and watermelon! It was very yummie :)
We then made a fire and roasted marshmallows! Also very yummie. After that, we all came back to the church to take showers and go to sleep early! Goodnight- Casey

Here are some pictures from the day. To see the rest, please go to our student facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Lexington-SC/Zion-Lutheran-Church-Youth/150573651544?ref=ts&__a=5&ajaxpipe=1







Monday, August 2, 2010

Senior High Mission Trip - Day 2 by Brent Wingard

This morning's wake up call came awfully early - 6:30am to be exact. Sunday night, we didn't get to bed until about 11:45pm or after! The work day was fairly easy for the guys, unlike the girls day (we were working at two differnt sites). Here are some highlights:
*The girls found 2 dead rats while tearing out flooring that was rotten.
*The guys didn't really get dirty (or to shower first).
*The girls tore out an entire dining room floor and replaced it with new joists
and plywood sub-floor!
*The guys helped put in 2 windows and will finish the third tomorrow.
*The girls replaced half a popcorn ceiling!
*The guys spent time talking to the owner of the home where they were working
and she helped them clean up the rotten wood from rthe windows they were
replacing.
*The girls had a distracting visit from the cutest puppies that were roaming
the neighborhood.

For dinner, we had another "challenge" to step out of our comfort zones. We are doing these each night at dinner. This time, we had to eat spaghetti without using a fork, spoon, or knife. We had to bring our own utensil! Some brought spatulas! Needless to say, it was a pretty messy dinner, but we all left the table full!

The lesson that Jillianne taught us tonight when we got back to the church in Pawley's Island was about spiritual gifts. We learned what types of gifts we each have individually.

See some of our pictures below or head to the Zion Youth Facebook Page to see more!
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Lexington-SC/Zion-Lutheran-Church-Youth/150573651544?ref=ts&__a=6&ajaxpipe=1












Sunday, August 1, 2010

Senior High Mission Trip - Day 1

We're on day one of our first ever Zion senior high mission trip to Georgetown, SC! Zion's congregation generously supported this opportunity for our students to serve and share God's love. We were able to raise $2143.00 to help with expenses of this trip and the mid high trip (last weekend) to Beaufort, SC. And, a fellow congregation, St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Pawley's Island, graciosly opened up their church and fellowship hall to host us this week! We'll be doing our work through the United Methodist Relief Center. We'll be working on several houses in the Georgtown/Andrews area doing some flooring, painting, roofing, and intalling new windows. Today, I'm writing the blog. However, each day this week, one of our students will be blogging and sharing information about the work we are doing and the evening programs being led by Jillianne.

Today, we traveled to Pawley's Island after the 11am worship service at Zion. Our time began with a lunch stop at 5 Guys in Lexington. Once we arrived in Pawley's Isalnd, arond 5pm, we were greated by Pastor Lyle at St. Peter's and we "moved" in to our temporary home!

I explained to the youth that this week is all about stepping out of their comfort zones! When we are willing to step out, God grows us and we are better able to sense God's presence in our lives and the lives of others! To prove this idea, each dinner meal we share together will be an "out of your comfort zone" dinner. Tonight's meal - the youth were given $50 and asked to provide food for the ten participants on the trip. The only rules were no pizza or sandwhiches. The youth brainstormed for a while and decided to to breakfast for dinner. As they were making their grocery list, someone decided going to Waffle House would be easier. So, off we headed to waffle house! After some free waffles and biscuits and gravy, we met our goal!!!








After dinner, we returned to St. Peter's for a program on servanthood. We started with some hilarious games that focused on attention to detail and building/teamwork (important jobs for us this week)! First was a reverse photo scavenger hunt. Basically, the youth started with a list of 8 captions and they had to be creative and capture a picture to go with it. Here are some examples:







"Who would have thought a youth group could do this an no one got arrested?"











"It was pretty obvious to onlookers how THIS was going to end."









"'Be Careful!' someone shouted at the group. "THIS could cause an unstoppable outbreak of peace in the world."








In our next game, we built towers out of marshmellows and spaghetti! The goal was to see which group, the guys or the girls, could build the highest tower. This was the winner (built by the guys):










We then brainstormed the characteristics of a servant and a missionary and decided that we are called to be both this week! Some of the characteristics of a servant/missionary the students came up with were: willing, hard working, committed to sharing God's love, and helpful. We used Matthew 5:7-12 to talk more about the charcateristics of a servant/missionary!

We also looked at several examples of servants in Scripture and the senior highs acted out the scenes of Jesus calling the fishermen to be fishers of people, Mary and Martha, and Jesus washing the disciples feet.

We ended our evening by serving one another, and again stepping out of our comfort zone, by painting and washing each other's feet and hands.









After all, this week, we are Zion's and God's hands and feet in the community of Georgetown and Pawley's Island! By painting ... we created this:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Walking on Water

So, last night we had our first mid high summer youth group gathering. We met at the house of two of our mid high youth and they have a pool! We swam, ate dinner (in the pouring rain), had a devotion, and shared in fellowship. It was fun.

I tried to get the group to play "Pool Bowling" but they looked at me like I was crazy ... which I probably am! :) If you've played before you know that in pool bowling you have volunteers to be a "bowler" and a "bowling ball" and then you have the "pins." It's a little tricky! Basically, the bowling ball person gets on a raft and sits. The pins do a handstand and hold it and the bowler "pushes" the ball into the pins. If you've never played, it's acutally hilarious and worth a shot! Mostly, everyone just wants to be the bowling ball. Seriously, you need to try this game ...

After dinner, I started off our devotion time by asking the youth if they could think of a time that involved Jesus and water. They named several but their first guess was Peter and Jesus walking on water. So, I felt convicted and pushed them on this. I read the account to them from Scripture.

They decided that Peter began to sink because of fear. So, we discussed what things we fear. They all agreed that they get afraid from time to time and one person even shared about being afraid of death. We also talked about how our hearts shouldn’t be “hard” or “closed” like the disciples were that day (as it says in Scripture).

And here is where I am stuck (which is a good thing because I'm really praying for my youth about this right now). Here's the thing about opening our hearts - it forces a change in our lives. Jesus calls us to a higher standard, afterall.

(Sadly) Often times, that change, the committment required to open our hearts, is not something we are willing to do. For example, not having closed hearts might mean we are called to hang out with different people or limit the time we spend with those whom we do not want to be like. For we know from 1 Corinthians that bad company corrupts good character. How many students do you know that might be willing to change their friends or limit their time with people they've been hanging with, especially in the summer?

Okay, so where am I stuck? How can I as a youth minister share this message in practical ways? I truly beleive that we, too, can walk on water (or at the least help rescue someone else who is sinking or afraid) if we do live our lives differently/with open hearts where Christ is central. What I feel convicted to do is find the best way(s) to take Martin Luther's thought and have the youth in my church live it! Luther said something like: "It is more about knowing Jesus, it is about possessing Jesus." That's where I am stuck ... making that practical for today's youth, so that they might set that example for others (1 Tim 4:12).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sweet Summertime

I’ll admit it! I am a beach bum! If I could live at the beach, I would! I LOVE summertime.; I always have! It is a magical time of year when (as a student) you don’t have so much responsibility and can do awesome things like stay up late, sleep in, hang with friends, wear flip-flops to church, take a family vacation, and relax!
Loving the summer comes naturally to me. The beach was also my dad’s favorite place in the world. And, I probably love it so much because it is a tradition for my family! When I was growing up, my grandparents had a beach house at Hilton Head and each summer our family and friends would go for multiple weeks. I was very lucky (and spoiled).

Some of my favorite memories of that summer tradition include:
*Apple fritters! My grandfather would always go and get from the local grocery store early in the morning and bring to us for breakfast. I’ve never tasted any as good as those!

*The coffee tree! Our family named it that, but it was really a palm tree that leaned to the side (so you could sit on it) and was located across the street from our house. My dad would have his coffee there most mornings by himself and have his time with God. My sister and I LOVED to climb on that tree.

*The Earle of Sandwhich Pub at Coligny Plaza! This is the best restaurant ever, and it was a part of our tradition to eat there at least once a trip.

*4th of July Fireworks! Our family went to the beach EVERY 4th of July. Our house was very close to Shelter Cove! So close, in fact, that we could lay out back in the grass and the fireworks were just over our heads!

Because of all of this, I have come to realize how meaningful tradition is for people! But God has also taught me the importance of creating new traditions! Sadly, my grandparents sold their beach house when I was in college. I really miss that dedicated family time in OUR beach house (which I will always remem-ber as sweet summertime)! But our family has found new ways to be together, and we’re beginning to make new traditions (we LOVE renting at Edisto now)! It’s not the same—there’s no family beach house any more and my grandparents have both passed away now. But, there is still time together and many memories to share in and live through together!

These memories are so important as are new ones! Blaine and I are so excited to be a part of Zion’s family now. In the past 9 months we’ve had some great times! We look forward to being able to continue making memories and experiencing traditions (old and new) at Zion!

Links to Mission Trip Information

In case you can't see the info on mission trips in the previous posts ... here are the links. Copy and paste them into your browser!


Mid High
http://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B__iHRI_DidtZmFkMGY0MzgtMDc0ZC00YmY3LWEzMGMtNTg4NjkzMTFjMGU1&sort=name&layout=list&num=50


Senior High
http://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B__iHRI_DidtM2VkODVhMTMtM2M3ZS00Y2IxLWE4NDYtMTE0MjRkMTZjZTk5&sort=name&layout=list&num=50

Mid High Mission Trip July 2010

See below for info about our mid high mission trip, July 23-25! Check it out! Deposits due to Jillianne by Sunday, June 13th! (If you have trouble viewing, click on the small box on the top right below and open the document in a new page.)

Senior High Summer Beach Mission Trip

See below to get the information and sign up form for the Augsut 2010 trip!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Student Ministry Survey Responses

Copy and paste the link below into your browser to view the results of our recent survey! Thanks for your participation!


http://spreadsheets.google.com/gform?key=0Av_iHRI_DidtdDVuRWs4bHlNZHI4UFNydjJoOERCa1E&hl=en&gridId=0#chart

Friday, May 14, 2010

Youth Sunday

This Sunday, Zion students will lead worship! They have have worked super hard on this video over the past 3 weeks! Here's sneak preview at about a minute's worth of the footage from the 3 minute video! Part of what you don't see is a stroll through the woods where the old church sites are! Join us for worship at 8:15am, 11:00am, or 6:30pm to see the whole video and some other amazing youth led worship experiences!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Zion Student Ministry Survey

We need your thoughts and opinions! Please take this survey ASAP so we can decide how to move foward this summer and fall! Thanks for your support!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

May 2010 Student Ministry Newsletter

Look for this in your mailbox this week!

Here's a sneak peak ... just copy and paste the link below into your browser and have a look!

http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B__iHRI_DidtNzliMzdlZGUtM2Y1NC00YzY0LWI4ODUtODFiNmUzYjQ4MjVi&hl=en

Crazy May!

This month is going to be wild!! Check out this video of the Top 5 Upcoming Events for Zion Student Ministry!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Male Delivery Failure" .... Zion Lenten Worship Series

Pastor Tim has designed this theme of “God Tech” for our Lenten worship. Last Sunday, March 7th, I was luck enough to preach one of these messages! This is the message I shared ... hopefully you can understand my thoughts - I wrote this as I would speak it!


So far, we’ve looked at Moses and the burning bush a.k.a. “THE GREAT IM” and then Moses and the 10 commandments a.k.a. - “HOLY MOSES YOU’VE GOT MAIL”.
And tonight we're moving through history and the judges, prophets and Kings. For our purposes, we'll focus mainly on the kings – and really just the first two kings a.k.a. - “Male (M-A-L-E) Delivery Failure”.

So kings - we know from Biblical history that Israel had many kings. And then Israel and Judah split and they both had kings. You may or may not know lots of those kings, but I am positive you’ve probably know a little about the first 2 (because they were the most “famous”) Saul and David. Saul – not so good; in fact, just plain terrible as a king. (But that might not have been totally his fault. He was sort of set up from the start for “male failure.”) And David – probably the best king ever (Scripture calls him a man after God’s own heart, though we know David was not perfect … does the name Bathsheba ring a bell?).

But before the kings, who ruled Israel? How did we get from Moses to King Saul? I’m glad you asked! You likely know this, but let me sort of re-cap this for us. Scholars think that near 1400 BC, Joshua lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. And you’ve got the 12 tribes that are sort of the governing system of the Israelites. And from about 1410 to 1020 BC, we have the period of the “Judges.” The judges were sort of the primary military leader of a particular tribe, and a lot of them, really, came to serve as legal administrators of the tribes. There are more, but you’ll recognize some of the judges: Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Samson, and Samuel.

Ahhh, Samuel. What an amazing Biblical character. Samuel is considered by most as the last judge. But he is also considered to be the first prophet since Moses. Or a sharer of God’s messages to the people and most importantly a prophet would come to be (because of Samuel) the king’s conscience … So Samuel was living in this period of transition (though he probably didn’t recognize it at the time). You see, Samuel judged the people of Israel all of his life (Scripture tells us) and he even appointed two of his sons to be judges after him. But his sons were corrupt and perverted the law and the Israelites did not like them. That’s where we pick up our Scripture today … Click below to watch a video of it or read 1 Sam 8:4-22:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFmHsa2nDkk

So, we learn from 1 Samuel 8 that Israel having a king was not God’s idea. In fact, through Samuel, God tried to get the people to stop asking for one and to see God as their King. Through Samuel, God warned the elders that if they called a king, certain "not so okay" things were going to happen and that the Israelites would be unhappy and even that they would then cry to God but God would not hear their cries. But the Israelites, the men, they didn’t listen, they wanted a king. Now this is an important thing to consider – the elders they were men – because in those days women had no place or responsibility other than to produce more male children. Hence, Pastor Tim’s sermon title “Male M-A-L-E delivery failure.” It’s not a sexist thing or to leave out the women kind of thing – the elders (who happened to be men) failed to listen to God.

The plan up to this point had been pretty simple for the Israelites: Obey God, stay away from the false gods of your neighbors and God would keep them free and prosperous. But Israel was never really good at this and now they’re getting greedy! They see their neighbors and the kingdoms and the kings they have and they think that if they get some “towering figure” in our physical presence that this “king” will prevent them from doing wrong and will lead them to great things and will protect and prosper them. They wanted what the surrounding peoples had; they thought the grass was greener on the other side! It wasn’t about progress and growth or meeting culture where it was. It was simply a "we want what they have and we don’t care about the consequences" type of thing.

Isn’t that just like us? In our personal lives and as the body of Christ, the church - as Christians. We don’t always listen to God. But, why don’t we listen? Here’s what I think part of the problem is … (I originally read this in a blog by St. Paul's Presbyterian church). Today in our society we are saturated by words. Words fill the air on radio, on television, at meetings, all around us all the time; we are hardly ever silent. And when there is silence, it’s uncomfortable.

I just read this report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Their research showed that in a typical day, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using media (TV, computer, cell phones, etc.). That’s more than 53 hours a week! And if you include all of the hours in the day where the media is just “on” then it’s over ten hours a day that our kids are exposed to media content.

In our culture, we are saturated with words: 1. words that often mean nothing (I’m deliberately not mentioning politicians here); 2. words that attempt to attract our attention (I won’t tell you about the commercials on Nickelodeon … Blaine’s already got his Christmas 2010 list done) 3. And where would we be without the commentators who tell us what all the words mean and what we should understand, as if we weren’t capable of understanding and forming our own view. (I won’t mention the Olympics at all. Did you watch the Olympics … I got to the point where I just wanted to hear the cow bells and the sweep of the skates on the ice. But, that doesn’t happen). And I think eventually we sort of become numb and we just stop listening; we just block words out. We all do it; I mean you kind of have to, to function.

Have you ever been on an airplane? I really dislike flying. Really, I am a nervous wreck and I fly as little as possible. But there are people who fly all the time, like my uncle … he flies weekly and I don’t know how he does it. But I’ve noticed something about those people who are on airplane’s all the time and it makes me mad! You know at the beginning when the stewardess is doing the safety talk and they flip on the video and you’re supposed to pull the safety card out of the back of the seat in front of you. Of course I’m scouring it, trying to get it all in my head, wanting to move if I’m in an emergency exit seat. But the people who fly all the time, if you watch them, they’ve got their headphones on, or they’re talking to the person next to them, or reading a magazine, or doing work, they are totally ignoring/blocking out the safety instructions. They’ve flown so many times that they’re numb and they just stop listening.

Or here’s another example, I don’t know about you but I get so much email in my junk email box that I can’t even keep it cleaned out. And, God forbid, that an important email actually make its way into that junk box because finding it is nearly impossible. So, I just ignore that junk box; I never look at it.

And sadly, for some of us, this trend blocking things out or whatever you want to call it - I think that trend rolls over into our relationship with each other and certainly into our relationship with God (whether we mean for it to or not). But, listening is important, words are important! That flight that landed in the Hudson River – do you think there were regular travelers on that flight? They’d probably taken hundreds of flights and never crashed. I wonder if when they realized they were crashing if they thought, now what did that stewardess say to do … words are important! I want you to remember that, we’ll come back to it at the end. Words are important.

So we know from the writer of 1 Samuel that the male Israelites were not listening to God in those days. And Samuel, bless his heart, he tried to warn them. He flat out tells the men they will regret this decision and lays out the negative consequences of having a king. But the men, they don’t care. And sadly, there were negative consequences for Israel because of this decision. We know that the nation of Israel would eventually have 41 kings. Only 11 kings followed God at all and seven of those forgot God at the end of their reign. This “spiritual rebellion” later caused the fall of Judah and then Israel and captivity by foreign nations and the Israelite people and this monarchy – failed.

So this is how the monarchy came about for Israel in the first place. And then Samuel appoints and annoints Saul as the first king. And Saul really fit right in to the whole “not listening” to God thing. When it came time for Samuel to present Saul to the people as their king, Saul was hiding. If you read 1 Sam 10:22, you see Saul hiding in the baggage. So, Saul was hiding behind/in some baggage, scared to death. Do you ever do that? I do. I hide amongst my baggage all the time. God wants to use us and we hide in our baggage, afraid to be used. And, eventually this fear and self doubt would cause Saul’s reign as king to unravel. Now, of course, they pull him out of the baggage he’s hiding in and Samuel lays out the duties of a king, and off Saul goes to be king. And things go okay for a while and then there’s a problem with the Philistines where the Goliath comes to attack them.

So, enter David. We know that David’s brother’s had gone off to be in Saul’s army to battle against the Philistines and Jesse (their dad) sends David to check on his older brothers. But with David, Jesse sends some baggage. He sends grain and loaves of bread and cheese and who knows what else. So off David goes with these bags and he gets to where the army and his brother’s are and something interesting happens. Read 1Sam 17:22! Saul hid in his baggage, but David has baggage from his dad and he gave it to the keeper of the baggage and then runs to the battle line. Because he was able to leave his baggage with the baggage keeper, he was able to go and be victorious in battle and defeat Goliath. And, then of course, David after much turmoil with Saul eventually becomes king. And, he’s a good king.

David, the “apple of God’s eye” started out strong – he was a servant king, not forgetting widows and orphans (thinking of others) . But eventually we know that David looses his focus on his relationship with God, he blocks God out (doesn’t listen), abuses his power as a king and stumbles into an adulterous affair with Bathsheba. We also know that, of course, Bathsheba becomes pregnant. David tries to cover up the sin and they bring home Urriah, her husband, but he won’t sleep with his wife because it wouldn’t be fair the other soldiers. So then David concocts this plan to send Urriah to front lines where he’ll be killed and then David can take Bathsheba as his wife. I mean, it’s just crazy - David becomes not only an adulterer, but also, a murderer and clearly is in no relationship with God.

So that’s where we pick up for our second piece of Scripture for tonight. The prophet Nathan comes in and tells David a parable. Watch this:



There’s a brilliant contemporary Hebrew scholar named Walter Brueggeman, he just died in 2008. And he had some things to say about this piece of Scripture. He wrote: “This story is more than we want to know about David, and more than we can bear to understand about ourselves.”

I can identify with that. I am so much like David, quick to judge / slow to listen but then my words come back to bite me and I’m the man (woman). Eventually this child that David and Bathsheba have together, he dies … they say as punishment for these sins. And it’s hard to understand but this is what it seems to take to get David back to being open to listening to God, back to putting down the baggage of self-righteousness. He goes to Bathsheba and consoles her after their child’s death. So we get the sense that he is beginning to understand his relationship with God by caring for others once again. So here we are with these two pieces of Scripture and Saul and David.

This why I think (well, I know because he told me) Pastor Tim picked these readings for us: The 1st reading reminds us what happens when we don’t listen to God, and the second reminds us how great start’s can quickly deteriorate when we loose sight of God. But I want to go back to this baggage image for just a minute. Saul, you know, he would not let go of the baggage of self-doubt and he hid in it and imploded upon himself. David started good, dropped his baggage with the baggage keeper and had success. But then later he goes back and he picked up the baggage of self righteousness, and stumbled under the weight of his own ego.

We all have baggage, but both of these men of the O.T. teach us what happens when we are not willing to turn our baggage over to God, the baggage keeper. So my question to us tonight - what are we doing with our baggage as we’re on our Lenten journey?

It’s a funny thing about baggage (I heard about this from The Skit Guys)! We begin collecting it when we are just little kids. Do you remember how I kept saying words are important? Well, they are. And, do you remember the funny little children’s saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s a LIE! I’m here to tell you (and I’m sure you know) - words cut deeper than any stick or stone ever could. And it’s a really sad thing, because as children as teenagers, even sometimes as adults, we are not prepared to deal with the mean things people say and so we collect the baggage. And, we carry lots of bags other than the things people say to us – guilt, anger, shame, self-righteousness, greed. And we just go through life collecting these “bags.” But they’re heavy and we know with just one little mishap, we will fumble all the bags. So, as we get older, we begin to find ways to deal with the baggage.

And I see it this way – we can one of two things with these bags: 1. Give them to the baggage keeper (God) 2. Dump it on somebody else which is something we do frequently. Dr. Phil has this great saying that is so true: “Hurt people, hurt people.” Balancing and lugging around this luggage is not the abundant life Christ calls us to. Didn’t Jesus say - “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” In other words, come here, let me carry your bags. And let’s not forget Philippians 3:12 – “Forget the past and look forward to what is ahead.” In other words, it’s over, you don’t have to carry the bags.

Christ is the keeper of the baggage – we are invited to leave it with Him! Oh and by the way, don’t pick it back up on the way out …. I don’t in this Lenten journey what bags you might be lugging around or if you are even carrying any, but I just want to invite you to consider them and invite you to drop them right now!