church

gambling

yep, i’m a sinner.

now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about gambling. this past weekend i took a friend to one of the indian casinos in the area. i had never been to this one, so it was a nice little adventure.

once we arrived on the casino floor, we did our first lap to check out the space. by no means are we high rollers (and by “we” i really mean her… because i am broke… and that ain’t no joke…), so we scoped out the penny slots. as we were making our obligatory lap, we came across the non-smoking section. this was the asthmatics gambling paradise. the ability to breath fully without inhaling gross cigarette smoke, and choking up a lung, lets one think more clearly, thus making more wise gambling decisions.

i was playing it all… all $4 that is. (a donation by my friend… she felt guilty that i wasn’t sitting next to her having the same adrenaline rush as she did while pushing the pretty buttons) here’s my play-by-play: $2 into the machine… $1 lost, insert another $1… won $2… total now $4… cash out…. move to another machine, this one had a surf theme… realized that i’d upped the ante, it’s a two cent machine (i know… i live life to the fullest)… i could now win bigger, or loose faster… which is what i did. you know, $4 in a two cent slot machine goes kinda fast… just sayin’. well, as a fellow native american, i did my duty and supported a local tribe.

in the end we both lost… me $4… her $25. but that’s the chance you take. i am often amazed at how many people are there, and this being a holiday weekend, the place was packed. the slot machines, tables, the high roller rooms… they were all packed with people, not to mention the line for the buffet. (we already ate, so just did a walk by… but, isn’t that what people really want at the casino… a good buffet? i digress…) there were just a ton of people there.

at one point i began to imagine what it would be like if all these people went to church like this, or even what it would take to get people to church in masses like this. sure there are some of us who have the hankering to worship, but there are a ton of people who warm a pew on sunday morning because it’s the right thing to do… or it’s just what you do.

i recently began a small group study about spiritual disciplines. the author of the book we are reading talks about worship as an act of gratitude for what God has done for us, as opposed to an act of obligation. i know that i can’t honestly say that every sunday i am in church with a heart full of gratitude. and i will even go as far to say that i had more excitement walking into the casino, than i do on some sundays when i walk into church.

i want my heart to be full of gratitude and have the anticipation of excitement every time i walk into church. i want to be aware of the sacrifice that God made for me, that he sees the worth in me and choose to do what he did. i want to be excited to see and experience the spirit move during worship. i want to be excited for the words that God will revel to me during the act of corporate worship.

i want a lot. but is it really too much to ask of myself to raise my level of excitement to the place i was at when i walked into the casino? no… no it’s not.

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funny

An elderly couple is attending church.

About halfway through, the wife leans over and says to her husband, ‘I just let out a silent fart; what do you think I should do?’

He replies, ‘Put a new battery in your hearing aid.’

my tribe

in about 5 days i will be taking off for sacramento to volunteer at the national youth workers convention for a week. it’s been a couple of ears since i have been to a convention and am excited to return. this year, as most years that i have attended the convention have, will have a new meaning for me.

this year i will be volunteering the entire week. i have the privilege of serving on the affirmation team, affectionately known as that a-team. to sum it up, i get to go around the convention and affirm youth workers! i get to tell them that they are making a difference in the lives of youth and their church and their community. basically it will be one big party!

this year i will be seeing, listening and experiencing the convention with a new set of filters. some of them are filters of maturity and some are filters of new understanding and some are filters of new awareness. having what seems to feel like a life time of experiences crammed into the last three years, i see a lot of things in new ways, ways that i have never seen before.

and, finally this year i will be reconnecting with my tribe. quite a few years back, a friend of mine was telling me why she, after 10+ years of sobriety and no desire to pick up a drink, still randomly attends aa meetings. she said that it was her way of reconnecting with her people, her tribe. and that’s exactly what i will be doing.

in all of the different jobs, roles and responsibilities that i have had in my life, the most connection i have ever had has been while working as a professional youth worker. loving what i do, feeling like i had a greater purpose of waking up every day and going to work, knowing that what i was doing was not just impacting for the students and families, but also impacting for the community and the Kingdom. this is my call, this is my purpose.

gathering with a bunch of others who feel that same way… now that’s what i call a party! but this week is more than just partying. it’s celebrating the hard work of mind, body, heart and soul. it’s learning. it’s growing. it’s safe, hopefully. but most of all… for me… it’s my people, my tribe. a place where i can be, take a breath and know that i belong.

revolution

just today i was thinking about revolutions. i googled it. one hundred and twenty seven million hits for revolution. from dogs to music to churches to governments… there seem to be revolutions happening all over. well, at least one hundred and twenty seven million worth!

i began thinking more and more about what a revolution really means. the dictionary on opie (aka iBook G4) tells me that it’s “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.” wow, that’s deep!

but seriously, is a revolution really needed? what government do we need to overthrow? what new social order needs to put into place? it all sound high maintenance to me.

in thinking about these questions i realized that no, we do not need to overthrow our government. afterall we do live in the USA… home of freedom that millions of people risk their lives to have a part of the promised land.

junior high ministry product

i am a product of junior high ministry. i have attended two churches in my lifetime. the first one being the church i became a Christian at and the second being the one i currently work at. although the are in the same denomination, they are completely different. because of my “lack” of church experience, i have found myself on several occasions comparing the two and wondered which church is normal or which church in more normal than the other.

the conclusion i have come to is this… there are no “normal” churches, in fact there is no accurate description of what a “normal” church is, nor is there an accurate description of what “normal” is. sure there is a dictionary description that goes something like this: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. but that just doesn’t cut it for me because i then want to know who then sets the standard.

well, the most logical answer is God, He sets the standard. but the reality is that, at least in my limited church experience, God is the last one that is consulted in what “normal” is or should be for the church.

too often i see within the denomination of the church i attend that there is more attention paid to the ritual of worship then actually spending time being in His presence. more energy is expelled to make sure that everything looks good and is pleasing to the eye, yet there are people who are dying everyday who haven’t heard th gospel and are going to hell. (yes, i said it folks… there are people going to hell!) more money is spent in making sure that programs are big and flashy, while people down the street from us are hungry and homeless. more of our hearts are dedicated to earthly things, than being focused on the one true God.

never in a million years did i ever think that i would land where i currently am… doing ministry in a small town at a small church, but this is clearly where God called me to be. never in a million years did i think that i would be doing youth ministry, the place where i started my portion of this journey with God. in the midst of all this God has been completely real and honest with me, sometimes brutally honest. and frankly, i expect that.

so here i am… this poor, pitiful girl who walked into the cyc at fremont over fifteen years ago, ministering to youth in a small town in the central valley of california.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
(Jer. 29:11, NIV)

enough said.

50 more years of youth ministyr: rollercoster!

i love the world of weblogs, with that said, there are some things about it that i truly can’t stand. but also, there are the things i do love and embrace about it, and truly feel that there has been a shift in the ability of people to dialog about things that never really existed before.

and that, friends, brings me to my topic today: youth ministry and the next 50 years.

in my daily blog reading (i love the opening bookmarks in tab ability in firefox!) i  was reading marko’s comments about the article in CT today about the next fifty years of ministry, specifically youth ministry. if i were the one assigned to the article, i would have taken the same approach as the writer and gone with the same interviews and probably said the same things. but, i would have also wanted to know what joe youth worker down the street thought. or even bob the head/senior pastor who got his start in professional ministry as a youth pastor/worker. to some extent, those view points are probably even more fascinating than the ones from those who are the movers and shakers of youth ministry, you know the ones we all name drop at some point in our career.

but looking beyond all that, there is some serious things happening in ministry today. having spent the last year of my life working as a youth worker (i am still in awe that i get paid cash money to hang out with teenagers) God has introduced me to new ways of approaching ministry and all that’s involved in that. i would love to say that when i walk away from this ministry to the next one God calls me to, i will be able to hold my head up high and say that it was great. but that wouldn’t be the truth. i work for a church that is stuck in the early nineties model of youth ministry: program, program, program… and we need your money to do that, because that will assure that our kids are ok! well guess what folks, ok is not good enough. if we are not in the business of kingdom expansion, then what’s the point?

i truly believe that the next fifty years of youth ministry will see a radical shift. this will take youth ministry, and all ministry for that matter, into new and unexplored realms that can truly only be guided by God. i think that we will see a shift to not just minister to youth, but also to their families as a whole unit. i think that we will see kids hurting beyond our wildest imaginations and will result in a turning to seek something bigger than what they are being hurt by which can truly only be God. i think that we, as professionals, will have the biggest struggles in our lives due to church politics getting in the way of working for the Kingdom.

with all that said, and so much more to say, the next fifty years of youth ministry will only be the greatest, wildest adventure that anyone can fathom. the question is not what will it look like, but are you ready for the adventure? and if you are, are you willing and ready to let God let you do His work?

i do suffer from one problem though: many questions, no solutions… at least not yet!

a great photograph

for those of you who are in the know and are not in the know (a.k.a. everyone) i love photography. here is a photo that is just to great not to share:

Sisters_of_charity

this came from this link… click here!

commitment

i surfed on over to the tv guide page today and this was the poll question for the day:

Does the threat of early cancellation make you reluctant to watch new serial dramas?

  Yes. I don’t want to invest in a story line if the networks will rob me of the conclusion.
  No. I’ll take the risk. Why deprive myself of a good show just because of past failures?

normally these are just silly things that get the reader to engage more with the site and thus be exposed to even more advertising. but when i read this one, i was really taken back by it. are we, American’s, so afraid of commitment that we are concerned that we can’t commit to something as small as a tv show, without being concerned if it will be there next week?

many of my youth pastor friends and i are often engaging in a conversation about commitment, commitment from kids, parents, others in the church and sometimes the church itself. one of the latest statistics i read said that in ten years the USA will only be 4 percent church-going-Christians and the other 96 will most likely be some form of a religion.

no kidding that people are not staying in church and committing to the church. if people are worried about committing to a new tv show, it completely makes sense that people are not going to commit to a church.

so i leave with this question: what would the world look like if Jesus did not commit to follow the plan that God had for Him?