stories, lessons, and a lot of nonsense

Archive for March, 2010

happy Passover

Passover started at sundown yesterday.  Aren’t you excited?  I think I am, although I will not be celebrating this year.  I want to do Jakob’s first Seder when he can at least understand the words coming out of my mouth.

I love Passover.  I love the story, what it means for the Jewish people, and the picture it painted of Jesus as the coming Messiah and ultimate Passover Lamb.  Last year was exciting for me, because I got to lead my very first Passover Seder at my former church.  We video taped it for my mom and dad, but somehow we lost the tape.  Anyway, I had zero experience with leading a Seder; my friend, Tom, had plenty of experience leading them; and yet, I ended up doing the Seder.  Pastor Jeff Cooper looked right at me the whole time he was discussing the possibility of doing as a church in our staff meeting.  Why?  Well, I believe I was profiled.  Everyone knows that every Jew knows all the traditions, feasts, observations, and celebrations, right?  Right.  So I called my Uncle Al – who of course told me to call my Aunt Michele – and asked for a copy of the Seder, so I could study up, since I really had no idea how to lead one.  He’s an evangelist to Jewish people, and he goes from church to church trying to raise support for this particular mission field.  He does the Seder often, so I guess you could say he’s a professional Sedist.

So, just to recap.  I am of Jewish descent.  I make no secret about that.  I did not grow up in an Orthodox Jewish home.  I don’t hide that, either.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned a number of times that I grew up Baptist.  So our family never did a Seder together, leaving me without a comprehensive knowledge of how this works.  But still, I am called upon to lead the Seder, cause I’m a Jew.


rebel life: purity

We continued our Rebel Life series last night, after an unscheduled break last week. I started out talking about the expectation (spoken or unspoken) for the students to engage in sexual activity. The messages are out there everywhere, from TV to billboards to school. But just because there is a growing trend and expectation placed upon them, we know that God has something different to say.

For each week of the Rebel Life series, we will be looking at the story of one individual in the Bible who showed the ability to rebel against expectations, opportunity, and temptations. Last night, we talked about Joseph and read his story from Genesis 39:1-10. We saw how he had the chance to do what a lot of young men would have liked to have done, but as he said, he refused to sin against God that way. We talked about how God wants to see us rebelling against the world’s expectations of us in this area, as well.
Then we looked at what God had to say about fornication. I even explained that word, although I suggested that they shouldn’t try to work their new vocabulary word into conversation, because there aren’t really a lot of good opportunities for that. We read Acts 15:28-29 and 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, to see what He had to say. Obviously, He’s against all forms of sexual impurity.
We ended with a time of challenge. I made commitment cards for them to take if they would like. I asked them to consider signing a card making a statement of purity. I’m not naive enough to believe that everyone in the group has maintained purity to this point, so I addressed that, too, explaining that at this point, what’s done is done. I let them know that if they have asked forgiveness, than God has forgiven. He isn’t worried about your past; He wants to do something with your future. Below is a picture of the card that was printed. Each student got a sticker version for their Bible, and a card stock version that was turned back into me. That will be laminated and given back to them.
Students: 32
Adult Leaders: 14

Hug the pot holder. I can’t tell you everything about it, because we had enough people on spring break that I want to use it again.

I’ve got to be me.

I was reading a post by one of my FOTTSP friends this morning, and it has inspired me to write. So with props to Katdish, ADD, and chickens, I’m going to tell you about a struggle I had. It was a struggle to be me – not the me that I was told to be by established religion, youth leaders, and college professors, either, because that me was on full display. I had to fight to be the me that was suppressed and hidden under all that – the me that God created.

I always struggled with me. I grew up Baptist, and for the most part, I enjoyed being a part of that world. I believed – and still believe – much of what I was taught. But there were some pretty distinct differences between who I was on the inside and what I knew typical Baptist youth pastors were and were expected to be. I think I always figured that God would help me to change and be a better Baptist, but He never did. And it’s not that I think being Baptist is bad or makes you a bad person. Most of my favorite people in the whole world are Baptist, particularly everyone in my immediate family except my brother, Steve. They’re delightful, God fearing individuals who would serve and help out anyone at any time. But they’re not me, and I’m not them.
I lived through six years of youth group in an environment where my opinion wasn’t welcome. It’s not that we weren’t free to express our opinions; it’s just that my opinion was “wrong” many times. I spent three years in Baptist college, completing my bachelor’s, and trying to play nice. I wasn’t very good at it, but I did give it a good effort. The problem was that I didn’t believe a lot of things that were being very strongly stressed in classes, and I had a hard time not raising my hand to say so. I believed the doctrine I had been taught growing up, but those things weren’t so heavily stressed all the time. The things that were stressed were very difficult for me to believe, given my ability to read and having the Bible at my disposal for the reading.
I didn’t wise up while I was in school. I took a job in an Independent Baptist Church after receiving my degree. I’m not sure what I was expecting, because what I got was a philosophical nightmare for me. My boss and I didn’t agree on a lot of things. On my first day, he told me I was spiritually immature, and that was the only reason I liked rock music, and hopefully one day God would change my heart. God never did. He didn’t change a lot of things that my former boss told me He would change. I prayed earnestly that God would change me. I mean, I liked me, but if being me was really a problem, I wanted Him to change me. He didn’t, though.
After a year of trying to toe the company line (the Baptist company line), I grew tired from the fight. In all honesty, I struggled with the integrity of staying on staff at a church that I knew was not teaching what I believed. God used a wonderful set of circumstances to assure me that I should leave for somewhere – something else. And I did. God moved me to New Hope Community Church, which was a far cry from the safe and warm world of the Independent Baptist Church. It was a place like I had never seen before. We worshiped Jesus, and we taught the Truth, but the difference was that we did so without any pretense on who we should be while doing so. I was allowed, even encouraged, to be who God made me. It was scary at first, because the whole experience was foreign. It was exciting and nerve racking all at the same time. But it was exactly what I needed, because for the first time in my life, I felt like I knew Jesus. For the first time, I felt like I knew me. And for the first time, I realized that God loved me as me. After all, He was the one that gave me my personality, my desires, my passions, and my hunger for Truth.
I’m not a perfect man, that’s for sure. I’m not yet who I should be, but I’m closer now than I’ve ever been, and I have more peace and love in my heart than ever. And, to quote Katdish, “For the most part, I enjoy being me. I now understand after years of fighting to be like someone else, it was never God’s intention that I be anyone but myself.”

five indicators that I am out of shape

I’ve been working hard on losing weight, because, well, I had a lot to lose. I’ve lost about 20 pounds so far, but I will not be happy until I can lose 15 more, especially if all 15 come from my tummy and handles de amor. Until then, it will be obvious to me and sometimes obvious to others that I am out of shape. Here are just ten things that point to this:

1. Every time I show off my speed, people are surprised by my quickness. During a game at youth group last week, more than one person pointed out that I was a lot faster than I look…or in other words, you look slow, like all the other fat guys.
2. Laying down to read is painful if I have exercised within 24 hours of laying down.
3. No one expects me to order a salad at a restaurant, and if I do, they are flabbergasted.
4. When playing basketball, I start slow jogging/walking after about four times up the court.
5. I look at the timer to see if I’m done with my cardio workouts at almost exactly two minutes every time.
That’s not everything that points to my being out of shape, but it’s a start. Hopefully that list keeps shrinking and shrinking over the next few months as I hope to be shrinking and shrinking, too.
Oh, and on a side note, happy birthday, Nate! <– that's one of my nephews

rebel life: overcoming pressure

At the end of the our lip sync contest last week, I introduced our new series: Rebel Life. For the month of March, we’ll be talking about rebelling against status quo – not giving into expectations, statistics, pressures, and supposed norms placed upon us by this world. As Todd – our special guest speaker last night – put it, it’s about living a life of holy rebellion, like Jesus did. Before he did that, though, he sang us a song. He wrapped up the contest for us to the tune of “Alleluia.” It was hilarious! Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the video:

Todd taught out of Daniel 7 last night. It happened to be on page 667 in the auditorium Bibles. The name Daniel means, “God is my Judge,” and when Daniel was taken into exile in Babylon, his name was changed to Belteshazzar, which means, “Baal worshiper.” He talked about the pressures Daniel faced when he arrived in Babylon: the authorities wanted him to eat certain things; his friends and peers were going along with the program; and self preservation would have told him to do the same. Daniel and his three friends did not give into what was being pressed up0n them. Even though their names had been changed, their identities remained the same. My favorite quote from the night was, “who you are does not change based on what people are calling you.” Daniel’s name may have been changed, but he lived out a life based on the fact that God was his Judge.
Students: 36
Adult Leaders: 14

We played a running game. Each student is paired in twos, with their arms locked with their parter (like they are walking down the aisle together), and the groups of two make up a giant circle. One person is “it,” and that person chases the runner. The runner runs around the outside of the circle, being chased by the it. The runner can just keep running, or they can lock arms with one of the people in the circle. If the runner locks arms with your partner, you have to take off running and be chased.

The big take away for me from this game is that I do not look fast, however, I am fast.

i’m a boxing legend

I love the scene in one of the Charlie Brown Christmas specials where Linus tries without much success to go sledding down a big hill in a cardboard box. I wonder if I saw this as a child and hoped to one day outdo Linus with my very own cardboard stunt. Well, whether I did or not, outdo him I did. At the age of 20, I – along with a good friend – became a boxing legend.

Two days ago, I was in Grand Rapids. Sarah and I decided that since we were going, we should swing by the bank I used to work at, so we could put Jakob’s savings bond in our safe deposit box. When we were there, one of my former co-workers, Mary Beth, told me that she thinks of me every time they get a shipment in a big box. If marketing is the same as it used to be, she has been reminded of me and my antics 4 times a year for the last 7 years. Why would a big cardboard box remind her of me? I will gladly tell you.
Ever heard the saying, “when the cat’s away, the mice will play?” Our cat boss seemed to be away a lot, leaving my friend and I – consummate mice – time to play. One day when he was away, we got a shipment with a lot of new forms. After we put away the new forms, we were left with a giant, empty cardboard box. Empty boxes went downstairs in one of our storage rooms, where it would be picked up and recycled by the box fairy. One of us thought it would be funny to ride down the tile stairs in the cardboard box like we were sledding. I took it upon myself to go first, and it was awesome. We both got to go down a few times before we broke through the box.
Every time a new giant box came in, we would ride it down the stairs until it was destroyed. Then one day, we had some promotional materials that had to go downstairs. They were about 2 feet x 2 feet x an inch. Being made of cardboard, they seemed like perfect new sleds, so we tried them out. That was scary. It was so scary that both of us stuck our hands and feet out as we flew down the stairs. Our black dress shoes left black scuff lines on the walls all the way down the stairs. Several years later, after we both had gone, a new manager came along and noticed the scuffs. No one could explain them. They had been there for several years, but the origin was a mystery to all. Regardless of where they came from, they were unacceptable, and had to be painted over. Five years after the incident, all evidence has been removed. The cardboard has probably been broken down and recycled into a new box, and the mystery lines are painted over. But the legend lives on.

American Idol Lip Sync Contest

Last night, we held our first American Idol lip sync contest. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll do this again. Everyone seemed to have a great time. The room was full with students, leaders, the entire church staff, and some parents and grandparents that stayed to watch the performances. The students were very well prepared. Some were tame, some were a little crazy, and all were entertaining.

We had three winners, with two honorable mentions, although everyone did a great job. Our honorable mentions went to Max Winkle, performing “Fireflies,” by Owl City – he did that song just to mess with me – and Riley Doonan, performing the song “Mercy,” by Duffy. Tim Johnson won overall performance – and a Mandisa CD – with his performance of “White and Nerdy,” by Weird Al. His costume was awesome, and his answer to the question, “where did you learn your dance moves?,” was even better. His answer? “My dad.” His dad is our lead pastor, and he was there to hear it. The winners of best choreography – and a Phil Stacey CD – were Bekah, Carolyn, and Jasmine with their performance of “Hot n Cold,” by Kate Perry. Of course, that would be the edited version of the song. They played the part of the scary woman who’s been scorned fantastically. Our last category was for best costumes, and that went to the Folsom brothers and Max Tustin, for their Jonas Brothers-esque outfits. They did “Burnin’ Up,” and took home the new Danny Goeke CD for their wardrobe efforts.
I had a lot of fun watching our students. They are so cool. Below is the playlist of all the songs that were performed, except for my song – Live for You, by Rachel Lampa – and Bekah’s third solo performance – Dig a Little Deeper, from the Princess and the Frog soundtrack.

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