Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Surprise!


Sixteen Easters ago,
Our yard was abuzz with eight kids hunting Easter eggs.
It was a beautiful day.
The adults watched and basked in the sun, talking, laughing and enjoying the day.

Then it happened...
A low hum on the horizon.
We looked around, nothing.
The hum grew louder and then the cloud appeared.
A dark mass of bees, like an airborne amoeba slowly moving through the air.
We gathered the kids on the other side of the yard.
We watched.
It was amazing.
Scary and amazing.
We'd never seen a swarm of bees before.
Then they stopped...in a tree in the yard.
A living, humming blob of bees.

We called a bee wrangler.
He was THRILLED to help us on Easter Sunday.
No, really, he was.
Free bees? He was here in a heartbeat.
We spent our Easter Sunday watching a beekeeper do his work.
It was so interesting.
When he was done, he took his box of bees and went home.

A couple of months later my doorbell rang.
The beekeeper stood on my porch with a jar of honey.
Honey from "our" bees.
How sweet!

I tell this story because I don't want to forget it.
Also, you never know what a day might bring.
This Easter Sunday, keep your eyes and ears open.
Something amazing might be humming on the horizon!

He is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Locked In...


I volunteered (or was I voluntold?) to chaperone at the Youth Group lock-in...an all-night-long party.
On its face, being locked into a church with 50 (yes, 50) teenagers, and staying up all night (translation: do not sleep under any circumstances) to ensure their safety and welfare, sounded a lot like torture.
But I did it anyway.
(This is where I admit that sometimes I volunteer to do things I don't want to do, because deep down, I still struggle with the misconception that I must earn God's favor. For the record, that's a bunch of bunk.)
My attitude wasn't great when I agreed to volunteer a few weeks ago (I might have whined), but as the day approached, my excitement grew...
Not about the stay-up-all-night part, but about the getting-to-know-the-kids part.

So I ordered a quad latte and showed up.
Those teenagers, they taught me a lot while I didn't sleep...
  1. They're magicians. 17 pizzas disappeared in a matter of minutes.
  2. They are 50 different stories...interesting, funny, sad, inspiring, hopeful stories.
  3. Many kids are seeking family (they may not put it that way), because they don't have a stable one. They're looking for a place to belong...to be accepted. 
  4. It's so cool to see 50 kids paying attention...listening intently to the message.
  5. It's utter JOY to know students were impacted by the message...that it begged more conversation.
  6. Even shy/insecure/quiet kids will stand up in front of 49 of their peers and SING! (I would NEVER have done that at their age.)
  7. They're BRAVE. (See #6.)
  8. They're supportive of each other. They cheer for each other. (See #6 & #7)
  9. They're HILARIOUS. Oh man. So many kinds of hilarious. One kid took it upon himself to hide water bottles in the most clever places all over the church. Why? Because all night long, every time we found one above a doorframe or in a high windowsill, we laughed. Genius.
  10. They like to talk to adults (to older adults with gray hair even). Did I, when I was their age? I don't think I did. I don't actually remember adults reaching out to talk to me (it was a different time). And, since I'm on the subject, teens are FUN to talk to. They're interesting, open, curious and kind. They answered my questions...and truth be told, I can be nosy.
  11. They want someone to be interested in them. (See #10.)
  12. Some kids do not need caffeine...period...cartwheels at 3am, running at full speed through the church at 4am...I'd like a teaspoon of what they're having, please.
  13. There are EXCELLENT student leaders in the TGW youth group.
  14. It is VERY satisfying to be included in their world...in their games.
  15. It is even MORE satisfying to be sneeringly accused of murder and killed as a result of their utter disdain of your deception while playing their game.
  16. But it is the MOST satisfying to get away with murder(s), after playing many rounds of Mafia BEFORE being killed.
  17. It's fun to watch kids include each other, get to know each other and enjoy each other's company hour after hour.
  18. Sitting makes one tired. Standing or walking or talking helps one stay awake (caffeine at 3:30am doesn't hurt either).
  19. The dedication of the youth staff is inspiring. They care deeply about the kids. They love them utterly. TGW youth are so very blessed!
  20. It is BEAUTIFUL to watch kids (who haven't slept) happily clean a great big church after having messy fun all night.
  21. Laughter makes time go by faster. It was the fastest awake-all-night of my life
  22. I take great pride in the fact that I did not so much "power nap" for 5 minutes, yet young whippersnappers curled up as early as 1am because they just couldn't stay awake...you snooze you lose. ;)
  23. My "wall" is 5am. Good to know because I would do this again. I'd stay up all night all over again. They're so worth it.
I don't write this for any other reason than to encourage you. If you have the opportunity, volunteer with youth. I realize it might not be for everyone, but I think it might be for more of us than we think!

The biggest thing I learned is that you don't have to be "cool" or "up on all the things" to be a youth volunteer (I've never been accused of being cool). You just have to step out of your comfort zone and open up your heart...or agree to do something you don't think you want to do...and see what happens.

Those kids nudged their way into my heart as I yawned through the night and I couldn't be happier about that. They are the future of the church, the future of our country and they are about to be adults, deciding if God - if God's people, are worthy to associate with in the future. Knowing we care about them will go a long way in helping them decide! 

Friday, April 5, 2019

God is God and I Am Not

 
Habakkuk 1:5 says: Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.

God is God and I am not.
Yet, I like to think I can figure it all out.
Sometimes when I pray, I lay out the plan of action that would be most efficient for God to take.
Lord, if you’d just help so and so do this or that…
Lord, please help the situation to go this way or that way…
Basically: God, I know you are in control but here’s the best plan, thank you in advance for seeing it my way.

A couple of years ago, my dad’s cancer came back with a vengeance, 
I immediately saw all of the ways God could be glorified if He healed him.
A few months went by and I realized he wouldn’t be healed. 
I suggested that God could take him peacefully, painlessly in his sleep.
When that didn’t happen, it hit me…
God is God and I am not.
Five days of hospice were the worst kind of torture, and I cannot imagine what it was like for my dad.
But…
If I know God—the God of Habakkuk and Esther,
He was working behind the scenes for my dad the same way he was working for me.

When my dad came home from the hospital for hospice, I told God that I didn’t think I would be able to handle watching him die - then I prayed, God, please take him quickly.
But still he suffered.
Eventually I stopped praying altogether because words escaped me completely and my thoughts were muddled and jagged.
All I could manage was “Help him…Help him.” 
Why didn’t He help him?
God is God and I am not.

When it was over, I recognized that, moment by moment, God was with me, giving me strength to do what I had to do to be there for my dad—my dad, who jumped at the chance to help me my entire life. 
Excruciating as it was, I’m so thankful I had the privilege of walking through the valley with him. 

I miss my dad every day. 
But God is so kind. 
I began to realize that He is not just my Savior, my Redeemer…
He is my Father. He is the best Father. 
But didn’t I already know that? 
It wasn’t long after he died, that one of my kids did something that would have made my dad so proud. 
I asked God to tell my dad the story—to pass the news along to him in heaven. 
Then I heard His still small voice remind me, “I’m your Father, tell me.”
Of course. A Father who will never leave me, nor forsake me. 
Joy filled my heart and I told Him the story as if He didn’t know.
God is God and I am not.

Habakkuk ends this way...
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen
And no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights.”

Amen!