Tuesday, May 31, 2011

God, My Friend!?

I’ve always thought of my relatioship with God as defined as friend-like. In fact, there’s not a thing I wouldn’t tell God … including my being mad at God about something all the way to how much I love God. For me, my relationship with God is somewhat like that of a friend … God is always there for me (just as a true friend would be), God and I communicate regularly through prayer and the movement of the Holy Spirit (just as true friends do). But when need be, God puts me in my place (just as a true friend would).

So when the sermon I heard this week started out that our understanding of God isn’t simply “friend,” I felt challenged and my interest was peaked! The sermon was actually on God’s transcendence and immanence. Big words, I know! But simply put, I see the transcendent God as the God who is superior and authoritative and might be seen as “barking” orders from on high. Similarly, I see the immanent God as the God who is with us here and now and is seen as simply being our friend and no more. It's only because of Jesus (the bridge) that we are able to have this type of relationship. We haven't experienced anything that God hasn't also ... friendship, happiness, suffering, physical pain, etc.

The clergy giving the sermon stated that we can think of this as a spectrum with transcendence on one far end and immanence on the opposite end. He said that we Christians should have a view of God that is somewhere in the middle. I like and agree with this view of God but had never heard it put quite in these terms!
I walked away from the challenge being convicted that God does give instruction and have expectation for our lives but is also with us on our journey! This is true for all ages! Another way of understanding this view of God (explained the preacher): Can we tell God anything? Yes, but we have to remember to whom we are speaking …

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bumps in the Road!

I love this time of year! It's a very busy time but it is always a great memory making time full of reminiscing and fun! A typical May in youth ministry (at least in my experience) brings Youth Sunday, Graduate Sunday, end of the year youth group celebrations, lock-ins, and more!

This past Sunday at Zion was no exception! It was Graduate Sunday! Our high school and college graduates were honored in worship! Also, the graduates gathered for breakfast. As is tradition at Zion, each of the high school grads was presented with a quilt by their parents. All year long, the parents have been meeting with some wonderfully gifted church members who are great seamstresses! They've been making these handsome creations that the students will take with them as they begin the next chapter of their lives! It was quite nice to see the beautiful quilts that have been made! And as I stood back watching the presentations of the quilts, I couldn't help but notice how much each quilt "looked like" the youth to whom it was being presented! What do you think??

Also, during the breakfast, the students had the pleasure of hearing from church member, Britt Collins. She encouraged and I thought she gave some great advice to the graduates as they begin this new chapter in their lives. I was awestruck to hear Britt share some very personal stories about her young adult life. Britt has persevered some tremendously unfortunate circumstances including the death of her first husband and then her younger sister. So she was quite qualified to offer advice to our students when it comes to the importance of persevering in "life." She used a great example of a time in her childhood when she hit a bump/rock in the road and fell off her bike. She had been down this particular hill many times and knew how to navigate the bumps and turns on the way down. But on this day, she made one tiny mistake because of a rock in the road and ended up crashing into a neighbor's mailbox. She vowed never to ride her bike again. Britt compared this experience to the "bumps" and "bruises" that life sometimes has to offer. She encouraged the graduates to be aware of the bumps/rocks on life’s journey that will throw each of us off the bike from time to time.

Britt also shared that this past Thanksgiving, she was remembering her sister's favorite holiday as she and her family spent this time together at Fripp Island. Britt decided to explore the island one afternoon but the only mode of transportation available was via bike. Many, many years after the tumble off the bike in her neighborhood, Britt hopped on the bike and began exploring. Britt shared that the foundations our parents and our church have set for us are much like getting on a bike ... one never forgets how to ride the bike! It is a great lesson and metaphor for us all and, especially, for our graduates! Thank you, Britt, for your inspiring words!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sometimes Our Blessings Are Out on the Water

Youth Sunday 2011 was this past week-end at Zion. Our student leadership team has been working on the ideas and our theme all year. Our worship chairs on the student leadership team gave the final approval on the order of worship! And then the 6th-12th grade students were asked at youth group, via email and facebook, and at our lock-in Friday night to lead the various aspects of worship. It all came together quite nicely!

The topic on which we focused for the service was “Initiative” and we used the piece of Scripture where Peter steps out of the boat and is walking on the water to Jesus. Our students filmed a video where the Scripture was read and they then gave their thoughts on just what “Initiative” means and they shared examples of how they have taken initiative in their lives. You can view that video here:

Youth Sunday Scripture Video

The youth also decided to offer an interactive prayer time after the sermon. In this interactive and symbolic prayer, worshipers were given a piece of tile and a marker. They were asked to write one area of their life, family, or our church where they needed to take initiative. They then moved to an area where they were given a hammer and they smashed the tile into pieces. This symbolized their willingness to “step out of the boat” (i.e. their comfort zone) and that they are committed to taking initiative in that area. During the remaining time in the service, the broken pieces of tile were being glued to a cross. This is symbolic because the cross changes us! It gives us strength to step out of the boat and take initiative in the first place. This is just what justification by grace through faith is all about! So, our smashed up tiles were turned into something beautiful upon our commitment!

Perhaps the most compelling part of the service for me happened during Kara’s sermon. Kara was preaching about how the boat is like our comfort zone and often times we are like the 11 other disciples who didn’t step out onto the water as Peter did. During her sermon, Kara said something quite powerful which speaks to me and perhaps has some relevance on our current situation in the wake of the financial and spiritual decisions being made at Zion. Kara said that in order for us sometimes to receive the blessings that God has for us, we must sometimes step out of our boats because our blessings may be out in the water and not in the boat.

I agree! As scary as it is to face the storms that may rise up while we are on the water (not to mention the “water” itself), if we don’t step out in faith think of all of the things we might miss. Thankfully Jesus is right there on the water with us, reaching out His hand to help guide us through our doubts and fears. Either way, in the boat or out of it, we have to trust the God will take care of us and that God will provide for us!

This got me to thinking ... in the past two weeks, two different people have tried to explain something to me that has thrown me a little off kilter. These persons explained that they were convinced that God purposefully steps away from a church or out of our personal lives for periods of time. One of these persons gave the example of God stepping away in the Old Testament. The other one gave the example of thier own life and feeling that God has abandoned them.

I am not convinced that this is the case! I think that we are the ones who turn away from Jesus or take our eyes off of Him. Just look at this example of Peter! Think about what Kara was saying! It was Peter who looked away and began to sink. It wasn't Jesus who disappeared or anything ... he was there they whole time! In the Old Testament, it was the Israelites who turned away from God and focused on other things. Yes, God was silent but I believe, in a weird way, that was because God was trying to get their attention!! So many times in our lives, we want to place blame on other people. However, sometimes we have to look inward and take responsibility for oursevles. It's called free will! So, today, I remember that there is nothing that can seperate us from God's love ... not even a stormy sea.

Youth Sunday 2011 - Scripture Video

You've been asking for it! Here is the video of the Scripture that our youth made! It was used last Sunday at youth Sunday worship! Enjoy ...

Monday, May 9, 2011


This coming Sunday is youth Sunday at Zion! The youth will be leading all aspects of the worship services that day and have been planning and preparing for the opportunity to do so. At the beginning of the school year, our student leadership team picked a theme of “Gone Fishin’!” So all school year, at youth group, we’ve been studying stories of the Bible that have to do with fishing, fishermen, boats, or fish. Even our yellow youth group t-shirt for this year reflects our theme with a Guy Harvey print of the “Old Man.”

The primary piece of Scripture that the youth will be using for youth Sunday is the story of Peter walking on the water from Matthew 14. The theme for the worship service is “Initiative: Peter Got Out of the Boat.” Kara Kleckley, our youth group president is preaching at both worship services. So, I’ve been digging through the Scripture trying to look at it from all angles and help her prepare her sermon. In most everything I’ve read online and in my commentaries, I’ve noticed something! Peter sure does get a bad rap. Poor guy!

Almost everything I read commented that if only Peter would have kept his eye on Jesus, imagine what could have happened! But I say kudos to Peter for even stepping out of the boat in the first place! I can only imagine how scary putting the first leg over must have been for Peter. Can’t you? It was the middle of the night and there was a storm raging around the boat. Hello … who in their right mind would do that?

Who would do that … I think that is the whole point of the story. Through this story, Jesus calls you and I to step out of the boat, too. But many times, we are like the 11 other disciples who you notice didn’t step out of the boat. We stay seated on our comfortable little “boats” and never step into the “stormy” waters and have faith enough that Jesus will keep us from “drowning.”
This is a huge challenge for leaders (paid and volunteer) in youth ministry! On a regular basis, we should be encouraging today’s youth to step out of their comfort zones. But, we first have to set the example of stepping out of ours. How can we expect someone else to do something that we are not willing to try ourselves?

This is why I think things like youth mission trips and projects (in and out of our own communities) are important. This is why allowing youth to serve in leadership roles in the church and at school (and at home) is important. This is why volunteering to teach Sunday school or chaperone a youth lock-in all night even though we don’t want to get up early on Sunday or think we are too old to stay up all night, are important!

Notice, Jesus never said it would be easy to step out of the boat and walk on the water. But, he did say “Come!” So … Come!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Youth Questions Video: How To handle Stress

It's official ... I'm a youtube advice giver! :)
Seriously, I am honored to be able to share some words about stress in this video put together by Tim Schmoyer of Youth Questions! Basically, youth submit these questions and Tim compiles "advice" from adults who work with youth into one wonderful video!

You can check them out by going to any of these sites:


Here is the video on stress that I got to be a part of!!