Moving On

May is always a month of "moving on" for those of us who work in youth ministry.  It is a time when we celebrate the graduation of seniors and the moving up of students who will join their respective youth groups.  What a blessing it is to have the opportunity to be around the creativity and energy of teenagers as they go through their years here.  This year we have six graduating high school seniors who have been members of our youth groups over the past several years. Some have graced our paths for all their middle and high school years, while others for just a portion of that.  But no matter how long they have been here, it has been a joy to experience life with them.  Congratulations to Taya Clary, Ashlee Goodwin, Dy Kimbrew, Makayla Stone, Cherdon White and Kaleb White. You have been such a blessing to us!

Jesus told his disciples to take care of the ones around them and to bless the children and train them up in the way they should go.  Moses shared with the people he led to always be aware of the blessings of God, and to talk about them.  He also encouraged the Israelites to live out their faith in all they did.  That has been the theme of our youth program over the years and now it will become the goal of these young men and women as they move on to the next chapter in their lives.  Our relationship with Jesus is apparent in our words, in our actions, and in the way we choose to treat the people around us.

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Love and Justice

I just watched a couple of good videos by Tim Mackie.  Here’s the link to that series  explaining God’s character.  I hope that I can somehow convey just how amazing God is to not only love us unconditionally, but also judge us honestly.  You see it’s not either/or but both/and.  We can get confused about that and want to lean one way or the other on who God is, but scripture tells us who He is and how He deals with those who turn toward Him or away from Him.  The way you see Him will greatly influence the way you see yourself and others.

Teenagers can help with this because they are usually unashamedly selfish, but not all the time.  We see it in the way they pass blame or justify their words and actions.  To them it’s okay, because quite often to them, they are the ones who matter most.  That’s part of the blessing we have as we work through who God is to them and how that shapes their view of themselves and others.  For instance, if we are trying to teach them something, I will take their phones first, because they will become distractions if we don’t remove them from the equation.  Even with that distraction gone, they will tend to be distracted either by one another or by something else.  So, who’s to blame - their parents for not teaching them how to listen, or their teachers for not showing them how to pay attention?  Maybe we should blame a society that has allowed them to become so narcissistic that all they ever think about is themselves.

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Joy Comes in the Morning

I hope you’ve had the opportunity to see some of the amazing sunrises we’ve had recently.  The great thing about those is that they get your day started off with the right attitude.  God is good.  God is creative.  God is making us a new day.  God is in control.  God is amazing and continues to amaze us!  I really love to watch sunrises, if you haven’t figured that out yet.  The thing about a sunrise is you must wait to see how it will turn out.  You must be patient and wait for the full picture; wait for the bright colors to reveal themselves.

Patience can be hard.  I remember asking our granddaughter Lexi once if she knew what being patient means.  She said, “It means you have to wait.”  We live in a busy society where we can instantly look up amazing sunrises on our phones and get thousands of pictures in a matter of seconds.  But it’s not the same.  Pictures can’t do justice to seeing a sunrise firsthand.  I know.  I’ve tried to take pictures of some that I thought would be beautiful, but they just weren't the same.

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Happy New Year!

I know that it’s hard to believe, at least for me, but the years seem to click by faster as I age.  Can anyone explain that to me?  When I was a kid, it seemed like it took forever for the things that I wanted to happen to actually happen, you know like Christmases, birthdays, and summer breaks.  Anymore, it’s as if time doesn’t have the same effect it once did.  Or maybe it’s the attitude with which I viewed things then as opposed to now.

As we look forward to a new year, we can choose to have an attitude of excited anticipation or gloomy dread, or maybe somewhere in the middle, like cautiously optimistic.  Paul liked to share with those he ministered to about life, and where they were, and how to live with this new faith in Jesus Christ.  He used examples of citizenship, loyalty, athletics, family, and education to teach how Christ had taught.  So, in the coming year, how will we spend the time we’ve been given, no matter how fast it may or not go by, to live and love?

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New Life

It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and I'm writing this for the December newsletter.  It reminds me of the rush to Christmas.  Advertisers and marketing companies are quick to start the push to prepare for Christmas even before Halloween.  It appears that Thanksgiving is being shoved to the side as a holiday by those who deem things worthy of our attention.  Thanksgiving and Christmas used to complement one another, and Thanksgiving ushered in the season of packing on the pounds for winter.  Celebrating with family and friends is usually fun, unless we allow it to become stressful.

The life we’ve been given, I believe, is to be lived with as little stress as possible.  Yes, I know that we have stressful times in our lives and many can’t be avoided.  But aren’t we told to trust and know that we have received new life in our Savior and Lord?  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17.

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Mess of Indecision

As I sit at my desk I'm surrounded by a huge mess.  Those of you who have been in my office will know what I’m talking about.  I have a very bad habit of allowing things to gather.  I may even have some hoarding tendencies.  If it runs in the family, then it may very well be hereditary for me.  I have an uncle who has had more than one vehicle collapse under the weight of stuff he’s collected.  There are even shows that deal with this condition.  I’m not that bad and don’t intend to get that bad with help from family and friends, but it does make me think, “Why do folks hold onto things that need to be filed away or thrown away?”

Indecision may be part of the reason.  Maybe, I’m just not sure.  Being unable to "pull the trigger," "make the leap," "climb the hill," or whatever clichés there are for not being able to move or make a decision can cause small piles to become large heaps of trash.  Sometimes I think it’s because I really think “I need that” or “I could use that”.  Occasionally I do end up using it, but more often than not whatever it is sits there until I decide to throw it away or it grows legs and walks away on its own.

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As we near the much-anticipated cooler weather of fall, I am reminded that this is the time of year that farmers have worked toward since the end of harvest last fall.  My Daddy’s family were farmers and there is still a bit of farming that goes on near the homeplace of his birth.  It’s hard work and the work that is put forth is not always rewarded as you would hope or expect.  Weather, pests, and disease as well as current crop demand have huge impacts on the bottom line, even with all that effort.  But if you talk to those who are passionate about farming, they will tell you that there is nothing they would rather do than farm.  It’s in their blood you might say.  For all of creation began in a garden and all of humanity play a role in how we care for what God has entrusted to us.

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