4/29/2011

Oh Bother...

This past Sunday was an exciting time at our church. We had nearly completed our "Cayce Census" project (knocking on the door of every home in Cayce to ask 3 survey questions), our resident artist, David Phillips, was completing his painting during the service, and we were celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. So, needless to say, there was joy in the air.

Except in the air around me...

You see, this past Sunday, I was a perfect example of what is wrong with so many churches today. This past Sunday, our guests at church bothered me.

Of course, being Easter, this past Sunday we had quite a few guests at church. I finished my responsibilities during our early Sunday School hour and made my way over to the Worship Center to take my seat. After some schmoozing, I sat down next to Resa as service began. What happened next deeply shames me now.

Even though service starts at 9:30am, we had quite a few people coming in late. A lot of them would make their way to the sides of the Worship Center to sit. A family made their way to the row behind me. They were a large family whose grandmother is a regular attendee of our church and were visiting with her. They were talking to each other quite loudly as they came in, filing one by one into the row. I immediately picked up the strong scent of one of their perfumes (something with berry and vanilla in it). This forced some of the people who usually sit near me at church to switch rows and sit next to me. One of these people has Tourette's Syndrome, so he has lots of physical and audible ticks.

As the service went on, all of these things began to overload my senses. And, I began to get angry. Not outwardly, mind you. But internally, I was upset. How could they come into the service being so loud? How could they not respect those around them? Why would you wear so much perfume to such a crowded place? I wish they wouldn't have sat here. I wish that this guy wouldn't have come up to sit next to me. I wish they'd just be quiet so I could engage in worship! On the outside, I was fine. But inside, I was italicizing all of these thoughts.

I left the service and went home. I changed clothes and sat down to relax a little before our family meal. And that's when God spoke to me. He showed me the evilness in my attitude. The blackness of my heart. The lack of compassion, hospitality, and generosity that, when left to grow, turns so many people off to the Gospel.

I was bothered by all of these people. And, because of being bothered, I didn't bother to help them feel welcome in our church family. And that is shameful.

I've spent time this week repenting over this. I needed to first confess it to God, then ask His forgiveness. I feel like this is one of many reasons why people turn away from church. Even if they're willing to come and check it out, and even if they're not directly turned away, they're indirectly turned away by being froze out.

Just because someone doesn't fit into my "church culture" or doesn't allow me the amount of personal space I'm accustomed to, doesn't mean they don't deserve to be loved by me. Just because they sit in the wrong seat or wear (what I think is) too much perfume, doesn't mean that God isn't calling me to minister to them. After all, there was a time when I didn't know. There was a time when I was loud. There was a time when I didn't know how to "behave correctly" or where to sit. There was a time when I was late. And, you know what? I probably bothered some people.

But I'm so thankful that someone bothered to reach out to me. I'm so thankful that someone opened their arms and their heart to welcome me. It's because of that, that I'm serving in my church now.

My prayer moving forward is that God will help me to always keep this in mind: I have to bother to reach out to everyone and help them feel welcome and loved. Even if they bother me! And I do this because I am loved by a great God who bothered to love me...

4/25/2011

FACT: Volume 4...

For previous FACTS, go here...

  • FACT: Adding hot sauce to a thing makes that thing better. APPLICATION: My resume is now covered in Texas Pete...

  • FACT: Auto repair waiting rooms only have 3 types of magazines. Golf, Car, & Women's Lifestyle (Southern Living, Better Homes, etc.)...

  • FACT: Burt's Bees chapstick tastes exactly like Doublemint gum...

  • FACT: There's never been a better use of music than Brad Paisley's "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" in the Season One Finale of "Justified"...

  • FACT: It's impossible for me to sing @coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" without switching to @alyankovic's "Amish Paradise"...
  • 4/21/2011

    Well, It's About Time...

    Well, this was a first...

    Cue Flashback.

    For the past three weeks, our pastor has been preaching a series of messages leading up to Easter. And, this whole time as a part of our worship experience, we've had one of our members painting a composition (is that the right term, Leese?). During that time, I've been snapping pics after each service and posting them to my twitter feed. But just in case, you haven't started following me (yet), here's a glimpse at the progress he's made thus far:

    Week 1

    Week 2

    Week 3

    Flash Forward

    Today, I took some students to play Disc Golf. After we were done, I was back in the office when one of our secretaries called. As I walked out to see what was up, she pointed to a gentleman sitting on the couch, saying that he needed my help. As I looked over, I noticed that it was our resident artist, David. He said he was over in the worship center working on the painting and needed a model.

    I'm sorry. What?

    After explaining what he needed, I found myself in his car on my way to the Columbia Museum of Art. You see, David is a part of a community of artists called About Face that rents out the basement (what they call "the dungeon") of the museum for studio space. When we arrived, we went in the back entrance, through security, and into an elevator. (I actually can't remember if we went up or down.)

    When we got to the studio, I saw lots of furniture being stored from the Woodrow Wilson House. David said if I touched it, I would die. We made our way over to the studio space, which included two areas: one for portraits, and one for figures. Over on the figure side, David arranged the lights and grabbed an arch that I was to sit on.

    Once he was done, he asked me to come to a table and began to explain to me how he wanted me to pose. After a split second, he gave up and grabbed a pen and sketched the pose. Yeah... impressive.

    So I posed, he took pictures of me, and we left.

    Turns out, he needed a model for the angel who moved the stone from in front of Jesus' tomb.

    As we drove home, I asked David about how he got started in painting, what his favorite subjects are, how his art is his offering of worship to God, and how he came to our church. Just before I got out, he said that i had really saved him a lot of trouble and that the painting would be better because I had given my time to help. He said that, even though the angel wouldn't look like me, I'd know it would be me.

    So I said, "So you're telling me that you're not going to make the angel have red hair and sideburns?" And he said, "Hey! Who knows?! You're a good looking kid! Maybe he will look like you!"

    Either way, I'll be proud to have helped such a great artist. And I'll be sure to post his finished product...

    4/18/2011

    FINALLY...

    Waaaaaay back in the day (2007), I wrote the first post about how I wanted an iphone. Since the gen 1 release, I've sat quietly by and watched as new models came out. But every time a new model was released, it was always outside of my grasp. This was because, like so many Americans, I was suffering from networkus verizonus. Or, in english, I was on verizon.

    Now, it should be noted that, I've never once regretted going with verizon as my network of choice when it comes to important factors like network performance or customer service. But they were lacking when it came to the one thing I was looking for in upgrading to a smartphone: the iPhone!

    Well, that went out the window in February. And after spending March researching on whether or not I should wait for the iPhone 5 release, I finally bit the bullet and got the verizon iPhone!

    I've had it for about two weeks and I... am... loving it!

    I've got a handle on a lot of the "fun" apps. But, youth workers, are there any apps that can help with the daily workload? Which ones should I add to the arsenal...

    4/06/2011

    Visually Planning an Event...

    I've been on the job in my new role for about a month now. Staff meetings, mid-week gatherings, Sunday School, discipleship classes, meetings, studying, phone calls, lunch... everything that was a part of my job at my last church when I left was right here waiting on me when I returned to full time ministry.

    And of course, like any youth pastor (interim, or not), I've got to plan events.

    In fact, the first thing that was handed to me when I accepted the position was a DiscipleNow weekend that was on the schedule for a month from my start date! And the only thing that had been planned was the date! So... I got to work!

    The first thing I did was fill my office whiteboard with things I knew I needed to think through. Everything from theme, to who would teach, to worship music, to t shirts, to housing and food. Every step that had to be taken went on the board. And it was all in black.

    Next, as I added to or changed or tweaked ideas, I wrote beside them in red. For instance, in black, I wrote "housing". Then next to that, in red, I wrote the names of several families that had volunteered to host students. Get it?

    After about two weeks, I began working on the schedule. But, I ran into a problem. I didn't have anymore room on my whiteboard! So, in an act of improvisation, I went into our children's ministry department supply room and secured myself a six and a half foot piece of heavy grade butcher paper and sticky tacked it up on my wall. (I also tested it to make sure nothing would bleed through!) This became the place where everything, schedule-wise, landed. Same principle as the whiteboard. Black first, then red.

    But after a while, I found a flaw in my system: Everything was a mess! So many ideas and thoughts written without any flow or organization and in more than one place! This would not do.

    You see, I'm a very visual person. In fact, in the congressional voting system of my brain, the eyes have it. (See what I did there?) Because of that, I like to have things that I'm working on in front of me. So I changed the system again.

    Here's what I came up with:

    (Click to embiggen.)

    Every little detail is now in one place. Organized, color coded, and updated with progress every day. Josh, don't you think this is going a little overboard? No I don't, italics. And, I'll tell you why.

    This piece of butcher paper is important for a few different reasons:

    1) The paper is in my office, with the door always open, for all to see. It allows others to see that things are being processed and thought through. It is also a physical display of what I've spent a month working on. Hopefully, this can aid in building some trust with some.

    2) It helps me collect all of my thoughts and needs in one place. For me, as I've mentioned, this is a good thing.

    3) Since I'm the Transitional Youth Ministry Team leader, the church is actively searching for a candidate for the full time, permanent position. This paper will serve him, as well as me! If he comes on staff, and has never put on a DiscipleNow before, he'll know exactly how I did it. Planning for the future is a good thing!


    So, there you go! Hopefully, this can help you as you plan a little too. If you'd like to know more about how I organized things on the paper, just shoot me an email or leave a comment...