Archives For Faith

hoops

March Madness is on! And I love every minute of it. Why? The game of basketball has had a huge impact on my life. Through it I’ve learned many valuable lessons that I apply to my everyday life and ministry.

Passing is better than dribbling.

I’m a guard. And every guard loves to dribble. The truth is, dribbling is the ugliest part of basketball and accomplishes very little. Passing however accomplishes a lot. Passing utilizes the entire team, and moves the ball a whole lot faster. During my basketball career I learned that the longer I held onto the ball to dribble the more I dismissed the help and talent of my teammates.

You get out what you put in.

Good basketball players don’t just shine on game day. They shine during every practice, every drill, and every work out. The game will give to you as much as you give to it. Half-hearted effort throughout the week will not return rewards on game day.

There is no I in team.

Sure, it’s cliché, but basketball is a team sport. It’s always five on five. No one has ever won or lost a game alone. No one is sent out onto the court to face an opponent alone. A strong team is made up of people who trust in each other’s game.

Vision is important – look up!

A good basketball player sees the entire court. Only seeing what’s in front of you places you in constant threat of being trapped by the defense. Seeing the entire floor makes you an offensive threat. You can see things before anyone else and make good things happen for your team.

Some days I find myself falling into old basketball habits coaches worked hard to break me of. I try to control situations and do everything myself when I have ministry teammates waiting for me to pass the ball. Sometimes I refuse to see anything but the obstacle in front of me and forget to look up. And at times, I don’t trust in my co-ministers the way I could.

I don’t shoot a hundred free throws a day, or run lines until I’m blue in the face like I once did, but I can still improve my game by remembering the lessons the game taught me and applying them to my everyday life.

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Jesus in The Fringe

March 19, 2013 — 2 Comments

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I’m drawn to Jesus for many reasons: His compassion for the weak and hurting, his radical ability to forgive his enemies, and his bold love of the marginalized. It’s the way he interacts with the fringe that I love the most. See, I love teens that many have deemed unlovable. I love offering support to teens who find themselves robbed of support they should have. I believe Jesus has a lot in common with these teens. This helps me identify my passion for those who have found themselves on the outside looking in. By recognizing the fringe in Jesus, I can also recognize Jesus in the fringe.

I recently facilitated a workshop at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference on strategies for reaching fringe kids. Based on the collective experience of the workshop participants, we composed a list of traits we find in the fringe kids we’ve worked with.

Traits of Fringe
They often move at their own pace and not the pace of the group.
They isolate themselves and like to stay hidden in the corners of the room.
They often have their own dress code and don’t always embrace fashion norms.
They usually lack a solid support system.
They are silent and they are disruptive.
They generally feel unaccepted or cast off by their own community.

The Fringe in Jesus
He was a child with a different focus than most children. He moved at his Heavenly Father’s pace, which was sometimes hard for his earthly parents to accept.
Jesus went away to pray. Those who knew him perhaps felt like he was isolating himself.
Jesus claims to be the Son of God, a King, yet was not dressed like one. On his journey to the cross he was mocked.
Jesus spent time in silence. But he also disrupted the norm for many with his message and miracles.
Jesus made it through childhood and his teen life as that kid whose mom claimed to have been a virgin at the time of his birth. He has no biological father.
Jesus was not accepted in his own community.

Jesus understands what its like to be different. He identifies with those who feel secondary and pushed out by their own community. Of course we can look past the traits of fringe in Jesus and see him for who he was, and is – Lord of our life. But can we look past the traits of fringe in the teens that make ministry just a little bit more challenging, and require a little more risk? They too are sons and daughters of the living God.

Challenge: See Jesus in the fringe. Who do you need to recognize as a son or daughter of the living God?

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Check out my guest post about Transformational Youth Ministry over at More Than Dodgeball!

Thanks to Josh for letting me have a voice over there!

 

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In 1983, I was 7 years old. My second grade teacher at Mira Mesa Christian School asked a question that made my little heart race.

“Would any of you like to invite Jesus into your life today?”

My mind quickly went to the amazing stories I’d heard about Jesus. He fed thousand people, he healed the sick, he died on the cross for my sins. Did I want him in my life? YES! My teacher knelt beside my desk and led me in prayer. I invited Jesus to be the Lord of my life. I confessed that I was a sinner, and I declared, “I believe.” 

Twenty six years later, I still believe. Studying scripture strengthens my faith and compels me to ask questions: What does scripture reveal to me about who Jesus believes in? The answer takes my journey from belief in him, to an unfathomable quest to risk, love and serve those he would embrace.

Jesus believes in the outcast.
In the gospel of John Jesus risks his life to save a woman accused of being an adulterer. The accusers leave when Jesus challenges, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Now the woman finds herself alone with the only person involved in this situation who really is without sin. Did he stone her? No. He believed in who she could be, when no one else believed in who she was.

Jesus believes in thieves.
In the 23rd chapter of Luke, Jesus is enduring the most painful death imaginable. Yet through his suffering, he is still attentive and hears the request of the thief next to him, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Everyone else had given up on this thief. Had Jesus given up on him? No. Even when the thief’s crimes had sentenced him to death, Jesus believed the thief had chosen him over the sin that sentenced him.

We can look at Jesus’ life and see it as the proof we need to believe in him. But we can also look at his life and see it as proof that he believes in us, in our darkest hour, when everyone else has given up, and sentenced us to death.

I do believe in Jesus. But I pray for his strength and love to consume me, giving me the audacity to believe in those he believes in.

Challenge: Jesus was willing to risk his life for those others had given up on. Take a risk on a teen you’ve been tempted to give up on.

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believe

Jesus Invites us to Be

March 12, 2013 — 1 Comment

red door

I hung up the phone and ran to my dorm room. This was by far the most surprising phone call I’d ever received. My first thought was, “If I do this, my father, a big fan of me finishing college, would disown me!”

Just a few days before, I’d opened for a Christian band at a concert at my college. It was my first time opening for anyone. I was nervous but I made it through the few songs I’d written. The next day one of my roommates told me that the phone was for me. It was a member of the group Truth calling to ask me to audition for the group. I was shocked! How did my nervous attempt to open for a real touring group turn into an invitation like this?

This unexpected invitation was weighing on me, but it was what I wanted to do. I would sing all over the country and get a chance to record albums. After a stressful audition process and being grilled by the founder of the group, I accepted the invitation to do what I’d always wanted.

Many times I’ve sought my purpose in life through the scope of two questions:

What do I want to do?
Where do I want to be?

I admit that I’ve been driven by these two questions, as I’ve eagerly sought out “what” and “where” invitations.

But there’s one invitation that has recently been catching my attention, this is an invitation that has been overshadowed by the “what” and “where” invitations for too long. This invitation knocks on our door every single day. It is the simple yet powerful invitation from Jesus to be. To be connected to him, to be loved by him, to be one with him, as he is one with the father and the Holy Spirit. This invitation to be is not about what we do, or where we’re going but is fantastically about who we are, his beloved.

Challenge: As we think about the group of teens God has given us to lead and encourage, will we do more than invite them to be a part of what the ministry is doing or where the ministry is going? Jesus invites us to be. To be fully loved, to be fully accepted, fully forgiven, and fully his. How will we extend this invitation to the teens we serve?

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SYMC PARTY

This week has been a mountain top experience. But as I have always shared with my students during spiritual retreats, we don’t live on the mountain top. We have to take the mountain top experience down to the valley where we live.

And this is my personal challenge now – not just to you but to me as well -because I feel like I’ve been on the mountain taking in God’s breathtaking view, seeing his glory from up high (and I don’t just mean my 28th floor hotel room – I was on the boring side of the building).

So what will I take down to the valley where I live?

Seeking Community – Not a second after I put my bags down, I met up with new friends and started sharing the life of youth ministry together! Thank you Leneita, Josh, Chris, Mark, Eugene and so many others! This kind of sharing life was so refreshing. It encouraged me to be with people who understand my mission and would commit to pray for me.

Commitment to Worship – Soaking in God’s presence and giving my all in worship brought me to God like a little child. I felt my spirit recharging in his presence. And it was like falling in love with God over and again every session. I need moments of honest worship to continue.

Hunger to Learn - I’ve taken away so much from workshop leaders and fellow youth pastors this week. I want to continue to look for opportunities to learn from others.

Eagerness to Collaborate - One of the things that blew my mind during this conference was the way youth workers were working together to share solutions! I think for some (most?), they learned more from the conversations they had with peers than any workshop or general session could hope to teach.

My challenge: SYMC did a wonderful job getting us to the mountain top. But it wasn’t the Harlem Shake or the perfect choice of keynote speakers that made this weekend powerful. It was our willingness to experience! What did you allow yourself to experience? My challenge is that we would all keep giving ourselves permission to experience God in these ways.

If you missed SYMC this year, register NOW for 2014! And check out my notes from my conference workshops. Connect with me on Twitter and let me know in the comments what you’re taking to the valley!

pewI was born on the front pew of a church during a Sunday night worship service. Before I could say momma, I said Jesus. Enough exaggerating. I wasn’t born on a pew but I was born a preacher’s daughter. Going to church was more important than anything else in our world. Church was first. I missed out on school dances, birthday parties, and routine mall outings to “keep God first.” Skipping church was not an option.

At birth, my spiritual path had basically been laid out for me. But there came a time when I wanted to have my own experience with God. How did I fall in love with a God I’d been arranged to believe in from birth?

Unlike the common tale of the preacher kid rebellion, I didn’t hate church or despise God. Church culture was all I knew and the familiarity of it made me very comfortable. By the age of 16, I’d been to church at least 3 times a week for pretty much my entire life. That’s about 2,500 church services. On average, each service was 3 hours long. That would be the equivalent of going to church everyday for almost an entire year. That’s a lot of church.

I’d heard powerful sermons, I’d been prophesied over, healed, and delivered till I was blue in the face. But my experience of church and knowledge of God wasn’t completely mine; it was my family’s. I knew so much about God and the Bible, but I didn’t know or have a deep love for God until I had my own encounter with him. It happened when I was away from home, and away from my dad’s church.

Eastman Curtis was the camp speaker the week I went to the Open Bible Summer Camp in Spokane, Washington. Night after night he delivered a very clear message. God wanted to have a relationship with me. He loved me, simply because I was his. Everything he lived and died for was all to love and be connected with me. It seemed like a race to the altar every night. Everyone was in the race except for me. I sat completely still and emotionless. I’d heard it all, I’d seen it all – crying, submitting, and going all in. I had a conversation with myself in my head, “How could this moment be any different than the hundreds of alter calls I’d responded during the thousands of services I’d been to?”

I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to, but I left the meeting room and headed for the open field in the middle of the camp ground. I was so tired of being instructed on how to received God, how to love God, and others speaking on his behalf. I just wanted to get away from it all. Couldn’t God speak for himself?

There I stood in the middle of that huge field covered in the night stillness. It was quiet and I was alone. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t pray anything, but I felt a shift. During that shift I knew I really wasn’t alone. The presence of God in that moment was evident. God knew I wanted to be close to him. I wanted to feel his love first hand. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but through the splendor of the star filled sky, and in the beauty of that silence, I deeply encountered God’s presence. My eyes swelled with tears and without speaking a word I committed to God, “I am here, and I will follow you. You are my God.” That night, the God of heaven and earth became my God. I accepted the gift of his love and presence in my life because the brightness of the stars, the fullness of the moon reflecting off the mountains and trees, declared his majesty! Yes, God can speak for himself.

Do you know a teen in your youth ministry who has been born into Christianity? How will these teens fall in love with a God they’ve been arranged to love? Will it be our mentoring, our teaching, the cool games or retreats that pull them into his arms? Church kids know the Bible, they know how to live out Christianity, they’re good at serving, and they’ve been to thousands of church services. So maybe the most powerful way to serve church kids is to facilitate moments that allow God to speak for himself.

What moments have you facilitated that has allowed God to speak for himself?

Don’t forget to subscribe via RSS or email! Also read my most recent articles, Don’t Peel Your Apple, and 4 Take aways featured in group magazine. www.groupmagazine.com

Jesus urged us to remember. He lived a life constantly remembering his father and the kingdom of heaven. Jesus knew that if we would only remember him, the way he remembered his father, our hearts would forever be linked to his. Maybe people have said to you, Never look back. I think looking back, and remembering certain things, times, and people, can be a powerful way to live if Christ consumes your heart.

I always cry when I take communion. Remembering Christ, his love for me, and his sacrifice causes me to weep. When Christ Said, “as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me” he was asking us to not forget that he was the sacrificial lamb that came to save and forgive all. He was asking us to not forget that he loved us so much, he was willing to lay down his life for us. And what did he say was the greatest love? A man willing to lay down his life for a friend.

It is powerful when we take time each day to remember Christ. I’ve found my own rhythm, I think of him constantly, in the car, in the grocery store, when I look at my family. I’ve asked God to remind me of him often. And oh he does and he has. When I remember him, I don’t just have nice thoughts about him, but I then commit to love the way I remember him loving me, to forgive the way I remember him forgiving me, to reach out the way I remember him reaching out, to see people the way I remember he saw people and sees people.

Here are some recent events that caused me to remember Christ.

__Sunday (Dec 9th) – Pastor Brown says in his sermon, “God does not look down and divide us into those who believe and those who don’t believe. He looks down and see’s his creation, and he responds” I will remember Christ and his love by not dividing my heart between those who believe and do not believe. I will seek to love and serve those who do not claim to be christians and will treat them as sons and daughters of Christ.

__Sunday (Dec 9th) – I find out a young man I know has taken his own life. I’m reminded that Christ grieves for us. I will remember Christ by reaching out to teens in need of a mentor. I will be an advocate for youth and urge the church to respond to the hurts of teens that live on the outside looking in.

__Tuesday (Dec 11th) – The birthday of my late father JD Truett. He would have been 69 years old. I remember God is my father. I will remember the many teens living without their earthly fathers who have not received the peace of knowing their heavenly father. I will reach teens that need surrogate mothers and fathers.

__Tuesday (Dec 11th) – While at work my phone starts to buzz with missed calls and text. I take a moment to view my text and find out my sister, a manager at Macys in the Clackamas mall in Portland Oregon, has made it to the parking lot and is safe after a masked gunman opened fired at her place of work.
I am reminded that God has given me the gift of family. I will remember Gods gift by loving my sister more intentionally. I will call her more, know her better, and cherish the bond God has given us.

Remembering is only powerful when it causes us to take action.
What will you remember today and how will you respond?

Don’t forget to subscribe via RSS or email! Also read my most recent articles, Don’t Peel Your Apple, and 4 Take aways featured in group magazine. www.groupmagazine.com

Lesson: Becoming Selfless

December 7, 2012 — 1 Comment

The biggest legacy you can leave in youth ministry is knowing that you’ve introduced your students to who Jesus is. We don’t just want them to accept the Jesus of Christianity through the knowledge and belief that Jesus was the Son of God. We want our students to experience who Jesus was through the living word, how he lived, and how he loved. In the lesson text below we look at the words Selfless and Selfish. In the scripture text you will see that Jesus defined the word selfless. I’ve posted a lesson text below that I hope will be helpful in guiding your group in the process of becoming selfless. Click here to link to leaders guide.

 Lesson Text: Our Selfless King

(Have students read this together. Follow your leaders guide)

There once lived a king whose kingdom was boundless. The earth could not capture its beauty or contain its width. It stretched further than the earth and extended beyond the universe. This kingdom was before life and will continue after life. It does not know time.

The king of this kingdom and his people were and will always be as vast as the sand on the ocean floor. This king is the ruler of all that is and will be. He is the creator of the Universe. He dwelt among his us fully God and fully human. His reign and life on earth was humble. He did not come to rule over us, he came to love us and to live with us. He lived as a servant. He gave all that he had to the point of death on the cross. He was the definition of Selfless.

He is not just a ruler, he is our hope.  He did not lift himself up; he lifted those around him up. He did not meet his own needs; he met the needs of those he created.  He was not selfish. He was selfless.

Can we say this about ourselves? Do we put other needs in front of our own? Jesus lived a selfless existence on earth. Knowing him, and loving who he was, and who he can be in your heart, is the beginning of living a selfless life.

Philippians 2:5-8 (msg): Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

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T.H.A.N.K.S.

November 20, 2012 — 2 Comments

Tell people in your life you love and care for them. Give thanks for friendships.

Help your neighbor out of humility and gratitude for the many provisions of God. Give thanks for the ability to bless others.

Always recognize the gifts, talents, and beauty found in those around you. Give thanks for diversity and uniqueness.

Never doubt that you can find blessings and beauty in any circumstance no matter how difficult it is. Give thanks to God for his peace, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. He makes all things beautiful.

Keep in front of you the many times God has helped you, guided you, and taken care of you by surrounding you with caring souls. Give thanks for the help you’ve received.

Savor all that is good in life. Don’t dwell on the hurts and disappointments of the past. Give thanks for you are loved by the one who is good.

Thanks acrostic by Theresa Mazza

Don’t forget to subscribe via RSS or email! Also read my article, Don’t Peel Your Apple, featured in group magazine. www.groupmagazine.com