Monday, April 22, 2013

ken's encouragement:

I have an elderly friend named Ken. He is a class-act. He loves helping kids- he has been telling all of the kids in his neighborhood about jesus for years. years ago, I blogged about how he has told his entire neighborhood about jesus. ken also raises money for a local pro-life charity. he has been doing it for years. when he comes around with his clipboard asking for donations, no one can say no to ken, especially me. a year ago on Christmas day, ken’s wife of 54 years, alma, died. I’ve been a little concerned about him ever since.

yesterday, I was standing out in front of church, greeting the people who were walking in, when up walks ken. he had his clipboard, and was raising money, and of course I was going to say yes to him. I started filling out the form when ken started telling me a story in his unique, warbly voice. he said,

“you know I was at the gym the other day, and I asked the fellow next to me, ‘are you cherishing your wife?’ he didn’t know what I was talking about, so I asked him again, ‘are you cherishing your wife?’”

I was filling out the form, nodding my heard, and monitoring who was coming and going, all at once. he continued the story:

“another guy got on the phone and said to his wife, ‘I’m done. you can come and get me now.’ and I said, ‘you know, you could have said I love you. or thank you. or I appreciate you.’ You know Rob, I’ve been asking all of the married men I know if they cherish their wives…”

I had temporarily forgotten that ken’s wife died a year and a half ago, but then I remembered- oh boy did I remember! he continued:

“you know Rob, alma died a year ago on Christmas. and boy do I miss her. you know I would do just about anything just to hold her hand again and tell her that I love her again. I cherished every moment that I spent with her…all 54 years. you know that feeling when you first fall in love, Rob? I had that feeling for 54 years with alma…”

at this point I was filling out this form as fast as I could just to get out of this conversation with ken before he had me bawling in from of a crowd of middle schoolers. he just looked at me, with complete control over his emotions and said,

“you know Rob, you’ve got to cherish her. every day, you’ve got to cherish her. I tell all of my friends who are married to cherish their wives. I’m just grateful that I had 54 happy years with her, but boy do I miss her. you know, I would give anything just to be with her now and hold her hand again.”

He asked me how long Deanna and I have been married and I told him 17 years (!) and he said, “you’ve got a solid foundation- and its build on the solid rock of jesus.”

this guy was killing me. I just had to change the subject in my mind before I broke down. I shook his hand and thanked him for his encouragement. then I started bugging some of the single staff ladies to give him a call. what more could you ask for in a husband?! he’s got character and faith- they didn’t want to hear it.

anyhow- I’ll just give you the same encouragement that ken gave me: cherish her- or him. we don’t know how long we have together, so enjoy every minute of it.

God is love.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

lectio divina:: timothy

I just finished writing a series for the students called, “the super-amazing-adventures-of-an-ordinary-church-kid,” about the New Testament leader named Timothy. let me just say that I have read A LOT about Timothy in the last month or so. if there is a book about him, I'm pretty sure I've got it and I've read it. but there aren't many. he's still just as invisible as he seemed to be in the first century. I like Timothy- he reminds me of me. Throughout the series, I make the case that Timothy is not your average leader- and probably wouldn’t be considered as a leadership-type of person these days. here are some of his characteristics-

// he’s quiet, timid, and probably nervous.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” Paul is reminding Timothy that timidity is not from God- Timothy was probably timid. I like this statement in 1 Corinthians 16:10: “When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.” its almost like he’s saying, “go easy on the kid- he’s a little skiddish.”

// timothy is kind of fragile, physically.
in 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul tells Timothy, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” sounds like Timothy was making a lot of trips to the first century bathroom…

// he’s just a kid-
at the END of his life, Paul is still telling Timothy to not let his youth bother himself or anybody else- 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

// timothy had some social issues-
in Acts 16, we first meet Timothy- he lives in a little town called Lystra; and the bible says, “Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.” since he is half Greek, timothy would not have been allowed to worship with the other jews. he would have been teased and left out. it sounds like he had some problems among his parents too- he wasn’t circumcised when he was a baby. it sounds like his parents had a conflict in how to raise the boy- dad wanted him greek, and mom wanted him jewish.

so- here is a kid who comes from a little town, has conflict at home, no friends, is fragile, and is probably socially awkward. doesn’t sound like much of a leader- but God used this kid, and made him a leader. when this kid met Jesus everything changed- he never really got brave or strong- but God used him.

and I think about me when I was a kid: from a small town. socially awkward. conflict at home. physically fragile. not really leadership material. but everything changed when I met Jesus. just like timothy, I’m still shy and somewhat awkward, but I get to do some cool things for God. and just like Timothy I can just shake my head and think, “I don’t deserve it, but I’m taking it- and I’m going to take it as far as I can.” I have often said that when I was a kid, I never thought that I would be anyone's leader in a million years. I never thought that I would get anywhere near a stage or a microphone- or that God could use me to help crowds of people, but by His grace, here I am. an ordinary church kid. I look forward to meeting Timothy in heaven someday and sharing a few stories.

if you ever think that you are not qualified to do something for God, think again. if you think that you're too quiet to be a leader, or that you're not "leadership material" or that you don't come from the right family, or that your past has too many problems in it, or that you could never be a leader for God, its just not true. there is an old missionary saying that goes, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” and I’m taking that one all the way to the bank. and you can too.

God is love.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

monday mailbag 4/16/13

I send out a ton of mail every week- (I recently ranted about how other youth workers need to do this too on my other blog here:) but sometimes I get mail back!

recently I got some really great letters and messages from some of my middle school friends- check these out:


God is love.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

i like it when...

these are a few scans from a book that jane and Deanna made for me last Christmas- its based on one of our favorite old books called "I like it when..." seriously the best present ever-

 the train park is oak meadow/ vasona-

 the art beat is a local art studio for kids-

 jane jr. is a doll that I found while I was on a trip that looked exactly like Janie-

we add a new magnet to our magnet board whenever we visit a place for tourists-

my grandpa roger-

my grandpa Roger died when I was in my late teens- and it hit me hard.

he was a rancher in the little town of Gustine, California, and he and his wife Bernice, were two of the most devout Christians that I have ever met. they adopted three children for overseas- my aunt, uncle and mom. He was a central figure in his little church, and often led the hymn-singing time on Sunday mornings. it was a little, one-room-church, with stained glass windows and wooden pews, and that wooden display on the stage that said how many were there last week. during the singing time, he would stand on the stage with a hymnal in one hand and just belt out those hymns with a booming voice, without a microphone, and accompanied, only by a piano. I can’t help but think of him when I hear those old hymns like, “how great thou art” and “because He lives,” and “amazing grace” and “in the garden.”

I later learned that he was also in youth ministry and had a Sunday school class of boys. one of the boys in this photo would later join my ministry team in Modesto as a parent and volunteer. I have learned in recent years that my grandpa could be one of those stodgy-old-church leaders- but I never saw that side of him. I just thought he was cool. he used to greet me with a loud, "HELLO ROBBY!"

 this photo shows my first meeting with him: he is covered in dirt, fresh off of the ranch, and I’ve got that same old expression on my face- and I love the expression on his face-

he was the spiritual leader of my family, without question. every holiday we would go to his church, and then go to his house after church for supper. he would always lead the prayer before we ate. and he prayed good, long prayers.

I became a Christian when I was in high school, and that was pretty exciting for him- and for the first time, we got to have a few talks about spiritual things.

like I said, when he died, it bothered me quite a bit. he died just before Easter, if I remember correctly. I was working at my church in Modesto, and it was the first year that I ever spent worshipping at a different church than his church in Gustine. I vividly remember that Easter Sunday- my church was rocking. The choir were in their robes, and the crowd was celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. I was having a blast until they started playing “because He lives.” the crowd was standing with their arms high celebrating the resurrection, and I was the only one sitting. I had my face in my hands, sobbing- and missing my grandpa.

the same thing happened at promise keepers later that year. the crowd started singing “how great thou art,” and the tears came pouring again. I clearly remember God telling me that I needed to step into my grandpa’s shoes and become a spiritual leader for my family. from then on, at every holiday, it was my turn to lead the prayer before the meal.

just last week, I was at one of my favorite churches in the area, elm street mission. it’s a little, one room church, with stained glass windows, wooden pews, a big wooden pulpit, hymnals, and a piano. I was in a worship service surrounded by middle schoolers and homeless people. someone shouted out a request for a song, and the worship leader began to sing out in a loud, booming voice, “Oh Lord my God…when I, in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made…” even though I was in Santa Cruz, I was transported back in time and space to Gustine and that little church. I could practically hear my grandpa’s voice. this time I wasn’t a teenager who was searching for God, I was in my late 30’s, and a pastor. and I could almost hear God clearly say, “you know- your grandpa Roger would have been really proud to see you now- he would have been really proud of who you have become.” and there I was again, my face in my hands, sobbing in a little church in Santa Cruz, surrounded by middle schoolers and homeless people.

in the midst of a busy trip, it was so healing to stop and think about where I began, where I am, where I’m going, and consider that my life would have made my grandpa proud.

Thanks Roger. I miss you.

God is love.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

charmed life

I've had a few conversations about this topic lately, and I thought it would be good to preserve them in blog form-

a couple of weeks ago, it was a Sunday morning, and I took the students out to the field to play soccer. it was a gorgeous day, we were in the shadow of those rolling, green los gatos hills, and the students were thrilled to be outside playing. the leaders were all out there being wacky with the kids- and I went to sit down with some of the kids who were either injured or didn't have the right shoes on- and I looked out on the scene and thought to myself, "I don't think it gets any better than this..."

one time I was watching a giants game on tv, and it was a big moment in the game and in the season. the crowd was tense and into every play of the game. one announcer said to another, "any other place you'd rather be?" and the other one says, "not on your life."
I kind of chuckled, and saved that phrase for later.

a couple of nights ago, I was out to dinner with my daughter, and she was very into our time together. she was chatting and chatting about everything: her schoolwork, her toys, her friends, her dreams for the future, and that phrase came back, "any other place you'd rather be?" even while she was chatting, I just reached out and put my hand on her shoulder to save the moment a little while longer.

a long time ago, I was watching this interview with Billy Idol, and he was promoting his album called "Charmed Life." the interviewer asked, "why would you give your album that title?" and he responded with something like, "I'm a punk rocker- I wasn't supposed to get famous or rich. I wasn't even supposed to live all that long. but things have been good for me- I'm living a charmed life." that was another phrase I saved for later.

recently I went on a walk with my family down a trail near our house. we had just walked to dinner and were walking back. we were looking for rocks to throw in the stream and were racing each other- and that phrase came back- and I thought to myself,

"I wasn't supposed to be this blessed- I never thought that life could be this great- that I could be a leader and serve God and get paid for it; that I would have a marriage that is wonderful and a kid that loves me- that I could live in a beautiful town and neighborhood. things have been good. I'm living a charmed life. or maybe a better phrase is a blessed life."

lately I have been stuck in these moments where they are almost too good to be true- and all I could ask for is a pause button to freeze time and save those moments forever. in these moments I'm struck with how blessed I am and how grateful I am for everything; literally everything.

sometimes when I'm with the students I encourage them, instead of thinking about everything that's going wrong, thing about everything that's going right. not just in your circumstances, but in your body, in your cells, in your central nervous system, and in the galaxy. there is so much that God is taking car of that we don't even think about or will even be aware of- maybe ever. count those blessings- if you can count that high!

be joyful always. pray continually. give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

God is love.