Monday, September 28, 2009


one of the things that’s been unique about me as a youth pastor is the amount of hand-written mail that I send out to students and adults. when the group was much smaller (and I had more time) I used to send a card to every student, every week. now its an all day event just to write a note to each staff person. I always try to write a thank you to every student that visits for the first time. I also like to include a little gift in each envelope; its usually a sticker of our ministry’s logo. students love it, parents love it, and it really helps me to connect names and faces.

last sunday, I was upfront, telling students to fill out their welcome cards and I said, “if this is your first time, make sure to clearly write down your address and I’ll send you a note with some stickers.” a voice rang out: “I want some stickers!”
“no.” I said. “you have to come for the first time to get stickers!”
another voice rang out: “you sent me stickers when my dog died!”
I said, “yeah- how many of you have ever received stickers in the mail from me?”
about a quarter of the room raised their hands.
the other three quarters were furious.
I said, “ok. if you write your address clearly, and you write ‘send me stickers’ on your card, I’ll send you some stickers.”
paco laughed at me and told me that I was going to have to send out 100 cards.
it was only 33.
33 students asked me to write them a letter and give them a sticker.
I knew it was going to take awhile, so I got on it right away.
back when I would send everyone a card, I couldn’t always think of something to say, so I would just personalize Ephesians 2:10 with a student’s name. and I did that today, 33 times.

“Kayla is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for her to do.”

“Austin is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for him to do.”

“Sarah is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for her to do.”

“Jonathan is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for him to do.”

as I wrote that phrase over and over, it dawned on me how true that statement is; and how God has an amazing dream for every student; and that He has been planning good works for them since before they were born.

and it reminded me of how important parents, and leaders, and ministers are in shepherding students and helping them to uncover the gifts that God has given them; and to help them to say no to the things that would derail His dreams; and to inspire them to keep going, even when its difficult.

so today, I intended to encourage others, but it was me who walked away inspired.
do someone a favor today: write them a handwritten note or card;
I bet you that they’ll keep it for a lot longer than it takes you to write it and send it.

God is love.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

random-rob-story:: 9/23/09

one time, when I was an intern in modesto, I went to a U2 show in Oakland. I went to the merchandise counter, and I saw a really cool shirt with U2’s guitarist The Edge standing with one foot in the air. I looked all over for a photo of it, but I couldn’t find it. he had his hands in the air and looked like he was doing kind of a funny monster walk. I loved the shirt, so I bought it.

but, the funny, monster-pose-picture wasn’t on the front of the shirt, it was on the back!
on the front of the shirt was bono kneeling and smoking!

so I had this shirt that I really liked, but felt that it was somewhat inappropriate.
so I never really wore it.
except for one night. I made a quick run to wal-mart. and wouldn’t you know, I ran into the senior pastor of my church!
we chatted for a few minutes, and the whole time, I kind of crossed my arms over bono’s face.
we said goodbye and walked away, and then my pastor stopped and said,
“oh rob! one more thing!”
“what does he want to tell me,” I wondered; “does he want my advice for an upcoming sermon? does he want to compliment me on a job well done?”
he smiled and said, “nice shirt;” then turned and walked away.

ugh! caught wearing a smoking shirt at walmart!
no wonder they didn’t hire me.

God is love.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

lectio divina:: mark 5

I was reading Mark 5 this morning and I discovered something new.
jesus goes into jairus’ house to heal his daughter.
when jesus finds the girl, she is already dead.
verse 41 says, “He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.”
for some reason, Mark throws her age in there, which I find fascinating.
the girl is 12. she is a middle schooler.
when jesus speaker to her, He calls her, “little girl.”
even jairus, her father, refers to her as “my little daughter.”
at 12 years old, she’s not that little! she’s probably kind of tall.
but jesus calls her little girl. when He looks at her, she is innocent and precious.

we don’t refer to 12 year olds as little girl anymore.
now they’re in make-up, and dyed hair and tight clothes-
they’re more like young ladies than little girls.
but what if the world saw 12 year olds as little girls?
they might be spared some of the mess that they have to deal with.
what if middle school ladies saw themselves as little girls?
they might avoid the drama and pain of the middle school years.
and they might slow down their mad rush into adulthood.

when jesus looks at a junior high girl, she isn’t a small woman;
she is a little girl.
she is innocent, pure, precious- and she should be looked after and protected!
she ought to be treated gently and with care.
and the rest of the world should follow His example.

God is love.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm a junior higher.

back when I was blogging on myspace, I wrote blogs on how my college students are like junior highers, and how the seniors group at church are like junior highers, but lately, I’ve been noticing just how much I’m like a junior higher-

1. I’m insecure.
I find myself wanting other people’s attention. I find myself trying to impress others or wishing that they will ask me for my opinion, or hoping that they will be impressed with me. and just like a junior higher, I need to remember that God loves me perfectly and accepts me right now. I need to remind myself that the God of the universe gives me His undivided attention whenever I look for Him, and that if I’m alright with Him, I don’t need anyone else’s attention or approval.

2. I’m emotional.
I shed my share of tears. I get too angry over things that aren’t worth it. My day can go from awesome to horrible in an instant. and just like a junior higher, I need to be patient, and slow to anger; I need to bring my heartbreaks to God, and allow Him to heal my heart.

3. I’m changing.
my friends in middle school are going through so much change, and it wreaks havoc on them. I’m not much different. my daughter is moving from baby to kindergartner, and I can stop it. my job is evolving. my parents are getting older; I’M GETTING OLDER. just like a junior higher, change bothers me. it makes me worry about the future. and just like a junior higher, when everything is changing, I need to cling to He who doesn’t change.

I’m like a junior higher;
because sometimes my heart is fragile.
and sometimes I make decisions that I haven’t really thought through.
and sometimes I’m just overwhelmed by all of the pressure and stress that are in front of me.
and just like a junior higher, I’m loved. I am loved by God, my family and friends.
I need a place to share my heart.
and I need friends that will pray for me.
I need people that can lead me and help me make wise decisions.
and sometimes I just need to be reminded that I’m ok and that if I stay close to God and let Him direct my path, I’m going to make it.
sometimes I need to be reminded that tough times don’t last forever, and this too shall pass.

I’m like a junior higher,
because I have potential.
and God has a dream for my life.
and I still think that candy, laughter, and time with my friends are the greatest things in the world.

so yeah, I’m a lot like a junior higher; maybe that’s why God put me with them and them with me. and maybe that’s why I enjoy them so much.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

lectio divina:: mark 1

when I was in high school, maybe junior year, my pastor marvin invited me to be a part of a class that he was teaching. the class was for his “star-kids” and he was teaching them how to prepare and deliver a sermon. the class didn’t last long, because the “star-kids” didn’t take it very seriously, and he didn’t seem to have the time for it; but I found it fascinating while it lasted.

I really only remember preparing 2 sermons- our first one was to be on mark 1. we had to read the passage, use any study materials that we could find, and talk on the section that we found to be the most meaningful. there was about 8 boys in the class, and they all picked different parts of the chapter. I chose the section in Mark 1:40-45, where jesus heals a man with leprosy; and it became my very first sermon. I still remember it well-

I talked about the parallels between sin and leprosy. I didn’t know much about the disease (I still am not an expert,) but I knew enough. I made the following points.

:: sin is like leprosy because it destroys.
leprosy eats away at flesh, but sin eats away at our soul.

:: sin is like leprosy because it isolates. lepers were isolated in leper colonies and were not to be touched because leprosy was thought to be highly contagious. sin isolates too. it makes us hide. it makes us numb; it makes us avoid community and contact with others.

:: sin is like leprosy because it warps. leprosy left a person disfigured and gross, and sin makes our hearts disfigured, warped and perverted.

:: sin is like leprosy, because there is no cure. you can’t make it go away. once you have it, you have it until it completely destroys you.

and then I talked about the leper himself. he lived in isolation. he was deteriorating right in front of everyone’s eyes. he had not been touched by another human being in a long, long time. the leper says something to jesus that I still find heartbreaking. in verse 40 he gets on his knees and says to jesus, “if you are willing, you can make me clean."

in a sense he says, “jesus, I can see why You wouldn’t want to touch me. I can understand why You would want to avoid me. but I believe that if you would just touch me, I would be made whole again.”

the reason that I chose this section, and why I found this so heartbreaking is that I was a brand new Christian at the time; and Jesus had just rescued me from a condition that was eating away at my soul, and I was the leper. I could relate. I said the same thing to Jesus, just months earlier. just like the leper, I said, in a sense, “jesus, I can understand why You wouldn’t want to be near me. I know I'm gross. but I believe that if you would come near me, that I would be healed and whole again.”

jesus’ response to the man still brings tears to my eyes. it says, “filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "be clean!" immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.” jesus was willing to touch a leper when no one else would; and jesus was willing to come near me- even though both the leper and I were gross and unworthy.

and that led me to my last point:

:: sin is like leprosy- because the only cure for the both of them is jesus.

I would love to say that my message sparked revival through the preaching class, but honestly, "the star-kids" in the class giggled and passed notes through the whole thing. maybe God was secretly preparing me to work with junior highers.

my pastor did ask me to give my message to our youth group- and they didn’t seem all that impressed either;
but I was impressed.
not with myself, but with the compassion and grace and love of jesus.
so whenever I start to think I’m something special, I remember that leper, and that 17 year old kid from modesto- both who were healed by a touch from the Messiah.

God is love.