Monday, October 30, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Ugly Betty: Thursdays 8 PM
Now, this one is up against some great competition in Survivor, My name is Earl, and The Office, so if you don't have a DVR I would say skip it until reruns, but it is a good show. Megan loves it, and I'll be honest, although the plot line is a little slow, its redeeming value comes in the confidence of Betty and the occasional "goodness" of the publisher of the magazine who is slowly realizing that image is not everything. It is a cute show though about a Hispanic college grad fresh our into the world of the fashion industry. I really like the fact that it goes against everything Hollywood that says you have to look a certain way to make it in today's world. It fits right in with the "campaign for real beauty" that Dove (I think its Dove) is running. I'll try to find that video and post it later this week. So in the midst of all the good shows check out this "not so ugly" show.
Friday Night Lights: Tuesday 8:00
So the joke about this new show is "if it's about Friday night lights and football, then why isn't it on Friday night." Simple note from communications classes in college and what I know about entertainment: despite the good old days of TGIF you send a show to Friday if it is on its way out...That's why. Anyway though I'll have to admit after seeing the movie of the same name and all the hype about this show I have been a little disappointed in it. However, as the season is developing it is getting a little better, but the plot is a little slow. I honestly don't see this one making it past this year, but I'll keep watching it to see how it goes. The premise here is pretty much the same as the movie...Football in west Texas, which I have been informed by a gentleman in our church IS just like what you see on TV. This town is driven by football and everything revolves around how the team does. Enter a new coach, injured QB and new back up and there is your premise for the show. Then of course you have to throw in the teen love triangles, family conflict and more and there you have it. There isn't a lot on Tuesday's right now except Dancing with the Stars, which is a skipper for me so I say check it out and see what you think.
Those are my thoughts on the new shows this year. I still have to say the new favorite is definitely Heroes (Mondays at 9:00). It's definitely a character drama season for me this year, the sitcoms haven't done much for me. If you want to know what I thought of the other new ones this season, check out my previous blog from the archives.
What do you think?
Sunday night, one of my seniors Erin asked if I would come to her powder puff game as this week is homecoming. Now if you have never been to one of these events, know it is definitely something...The girls play the football (flag football) and the guys are the cheerleaders (to the tune of obnoxious outfits complete with balloons up the shirt). That in and of itself was entertaining, but I was worried about the game at first. It just seemed to drag on at first...Junior versus seniors, stopping the clock after every play, juniors running away with the game due to one REALLY fast girl. Meg and I were about to go since we had been to most of the game, had already touched based with Erin's mom,Erin had seen us and waved, and we saw a couple of other parents and some other students and adults. I felt like we had done our part and we needed to get Meg home since she had an early field trip this morning. Then it happened...
- Large African American junior-push on play one to AA senior girl (who was just as large)
- Large African American senior-hard block on play 2-trash talk ensues (which was in language I am not quite sure I understood-or chose to block out since there was some profanity)
- *warning from officials*
- LAA junior on third play-hard block back and chaos ensues...Officials pulling girls off each other, words flying everywhere,Erin just looks at us and laughs...Which Meg and I were doing also
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
We started offering Bible Studies on Wednesday and Sunday so that students can come on their off night to dig deeper into the word. It was actually more to quiet the criticism from parents who can't get past the idea of "not" having church on a certain night, but it really has gone well so far. In fact, one of the parents who has opposed most of what we have done since we have been here has asked if she could be a part of the Bible Study so that is a praise in and of itself.
Went to the doctor for my annual physical today and all looks good and for the first time in a long time I am able to be weighed on the old school scales. According to the doctor's scales I was 344 which is great considering that last year when I went for my physical I was up around 370. There is still a long way to go, but I'll take it! My cholesterol also looks good, but they want me to up my good cholesterol because the ratio is a bit off I guess between good and bad, but the bad was not high so another good report there. BUT they did remind me that I need to make sure and hit the gym 3 days a week, which I try to do, but isn't always easy. The only concern was that my iron levels were a bit low and I guess I am borderline anemic...Whatever that means, but they said that would explain why I've been so tired recently. So we'll get that figured out and then maybe it will be easier to get into the gym 3 or more days a week.
But that is pretty much all that is going on...My mom is walking again which is a HUGE praise, many of you know she has been wheelchair bound since helping us move down here a year and a half ago. I am so glad about that as I was afraid she wasn't going to be able to walk again...She won't run a marathon anytime soon, but she is walking!
I'll try to get a youth ministry post on here later this week, but just thought I'd give a quick personal update this time.
Until next time...
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Pastor Matt: Hey guys, we've got some events coming up before too awful long and it is going to cost money for you to go so it is really important for you to show up at the fundraisers so you can have money to go. Even if you aren't planning on coming to this event, you should work it so you have money in your account for future events so you can go when we grab dinner at CiCi's or something...
Teens: When is it? What are we doing? Do we have to work it?
Pastor Matt (to parents): Parents, it is really important that your children be at the fundraiser so they can pay for the event coming up
Parents: They aren't going on that trip, it is too expensive
Pastor Matt: That is why we are having the fundraisers to help pay for it
Parents: But they probably aren't going to that event anyway
Pastor Matt: It would be good for them to work it though just so they can have money in their account the next time they want to do something.
Parents: Well, we'll see, I am not making any guarantees.
The day of the event comes, a few teens show up, but the ones that really need to be there...Aren't
Teens: Pastor Matt I can't afford to go to the event because I don't have enough money to go
Parents: My kids doesn't have enough money to go on the trip...Why do they always have to be so expensive. We don't have that kind of money
Pastor Matt: Well we had three fundraisers, none of which your child was at.
Parents: I didn't know anything about it.
Pastor Matt: It was in the bulletin, an announcement was made, and it was mentioned in the parent email newsletter.
Parents: Well they are still a part of the youth ministry, they should get the money anyway, isn't that what the youth budget is for?
Pastor Matt: It helps, but we only had so much to put towards this event, I have already put that money in your student's account. I am sorry, but I can't pay your child's way, we just don't enough money. Remember in the future that they NEED to be at the fundraisers.
Parents: well I am just going to have to speak to the pastor about this....
Anyone else ever have an experience like this? Am I crazy?
Friday, October 13, 2006
- It makes them feel better
- It helps them "fit in"
- They want to share their "concerns"
- It is being done in an effort to "keep you informed" (which is what I will share about)
It's so funny how the enemy works, I haven't even been home from the convention for a week and someone felt the need to share "what they had heard" Wednesday night after youth group. It isn't anything I haven't heard already...Why students don't like me here, why our numbers are "dropping" since we went to a middle high/senior high format (which they aren't), and basically everything else I am doing "wrong" right now. It would be really easy to get discouraged and want to quit (like I felt before the convention), but for the first time I felt the Lord just surround me with the realization that it was just "words." Simply put, it doesn't matter. Also for the first time, I really felt like the Lord gave Meg and I the words to say back to this person in confronting these issues. It doesn't mean the words will stop-I am learning you just can't please everyone (which is hard for me-I am a people pleaser) and you can't reach everyone. So here are my thoughts on words-I don't know if they will work for you, but they are working for me:
- People are people-They are who they are and we can't change them
- Sometimes people do stupid things-Hey I'll be the first to admit I am guilty as charged, I can't tell you the number of times I have had to go back and apologize for the things I have said (sometimes unintentionally, but most of the time with the specific goal of getting back at them)
- "hurt" people hurt people-We all have tough times in our lives and what I have noticed is that we tend to want to hurt others when we are hurting (again guilty as charged). Each person who feels the need to criticize me right now is going through a tough time in their own lives and maybe I am just an easy outlet for them because they have some "control" over my situation as the youth pastor
- I can't change their minds-but God can. The only thing I can do is pray for the people who feel the need to put me down.
- They are just that, words and only that. They have no bearing on who I am as an individual or how my relationship with Christ is
- Anything coming from anyone other than the source is gossip, no questions asked. This person felt the need to tell us what was going on because she was "concerned" but it was her version of what was said. I know most of it is true because I have heard it from multiple sources, but only what comes from the source is really what was said
- They don't need to be heard-we asked this person not to come tell us anymore what people are saying because of how it has hurt us in the past. I welcome criticism and concerns, but only if they come from the source who said it.
About change and conflict:
- Change is necessary-be aware of when things need to be changed.
- Change is never easy- We have made changes in the youth ministry since we have been here. All of them have been prayed through and done with guidance from the youth leadership board and senior pastor
So of course the enemy would love for me to get discouraged, but I am just not going to this time. God is good and with His help we are going to make it through this. The people who are causing the conflict right now have been since we got here. I have struggled with how to love them from day one, but I think I finally know how. To use the overused Christian cliche I am going to "kill them with kindness." This Sunday I am very deliberately going to go to each of them, let them know I appreciate them, understand their concerns and am glad they are a part of our church. Even if they don't like me I can still pray for them and love on them like everyone else. I am not against them, I am for them-their kids are my kids and I do pray for them daily whether they realize it or not. The prayer is not that they will get on board with my vision, but that God will be very real in their hearts and lives and that He will help them with what they are going through.
So words are words, and with the Lord's help, the won't hurt me.
Trusting the Lord,
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
As we were driving home along I 10 which is never fun anywhere you are on it, I was reminded of the journey we are on and how the youth ministry journey is a lot like the road we travel. I know that is a corny cliche, but that's honestly the way I feel right now. As a ministry, we are on a plateau that seems to go on and on forever. However, as we were driving occasionally there were some bright spots that I found cool, like the part of I 10 where you drive across the Louisiana bayou for 20 some odd miles. The swamps are a amazing...Somewhat barren in places, but full of life and growth. There are things there that thrive, but would die any place else. It is the same way on our spiritual journeys and those of our students. Each on of them is in a different place, some are in the valleys full of ups and downs, some are in plateaus where they just seem to maintain their faith (or lack thereof), and some are in the places that are full of life and growth...Even though that growth may seem strange to me and I wonder how they could get anything out of "that" lesson or event. I think in the midst of the discouragement I forgot to realize that just like physical maturity everyone grows spiritually at different speeds. I want my kids to be spiritual all stars and achieve all they can in their relationships with God. I want them to have the same passion that I have and not miss out on what God has planned for them, but I forget that they are kids and need to have room to be that way. Youth ministry is a lot like the parable of the sower. I have to be constantly reminded that I am planting the seeds and only God can make them grow.
Okay enough of trying to make something spiritual out of a long drive. When I wasn't thinking of illustrations we were listening to the seminars that we bought on CD. I am so thankful that is provided as a resource since there were multiple times when I wanted to go to multiple seminars and a long drive is a great time to listen to that stuff.
But all things come to an end and it is back to life and the battle, but I feel like I actually know where I am going now. Here is what I am working on putting into practice now:
- I need to be more deliberate about my quiet times-it is so easy to write off planning as quiet time, its not
- I need to be more deliberate about my "Sabbath"-it is time I turn the phone off and hit the white ball (golf) or the beach on my own and spend time just taking in all that god has and stepping back from it all
- I need to let kids be kids-I need to challenge and push them, but I can only take them as far as they are ready to go
- I need to be more transparent-It is okay to admit that I don't have it all put together. I still struggle and I make mistakes, I am not perfect
- God doesn't need me-He can do what He wants without me, I need to praise Him more and realize that I am nothing and He is everything, my programs are nothing if they aren't centered around Him
- I need to be more deliberate about the time I spend with kids-I DO need to get into the homes more instead of relying completely on online contact, phone calls, school lunches, games, and more. This will allow me to get with the parents and be more visual in the lives of the students
- I need to disciple someone-I am not sure which kid/s I'll start with, but I need to look for ways to be deliberate in discipling someone (of the same gender of course)
- I need to be discipled-I have been mentored by several people throughout my spiritual journey, but I need to find someone that I look up to and want to learn from who is willing to mentor me through the things I am facing now.
Well that is all that is on my mind now. I would highly recommend taking in one of the conventions if you can...My next pick would be Cincy because it is the home of the soon to be Super Bowl Champion Cincinnati Bengals AND Skyline chili which cannot be beat in my opinion.
Thanks for reading my thoughts, walking along this journey with me, and praying with me. I am praying for all of you (who I do not know) who are on the same journey.
God is good!
Sunday, October 08, 2006
The best part of the day was sitting in on Sean McDowell's (www.planetwisdom.com) seminar "Helping students set sexual standards." Most of it was review for me since I have taken some courses in abstinence education, but the statistics about teenage sexuality never cease to amaze me. The latest one that really shocked me was that 54% of students by 7th grade have participated in oral sex. WOW...I had heard about some thoughts in the past about sex parties with junior highers, but it is still hard to fathom.
With that in mind, the thing I am wrestling with is how do you present abstinence and sexual purity to junior highers. There is no way to avoid it anymore, we have to cover it. The hard thing is parents do not want to believe that their middle schoolers would be participating in such things (or even know about them). We have to begin covering it though in a relevant manner with them. I know there are several great resources for older students, but does anyone know of any for middle school? I cannot think of any, in fact I am considering using that as a proposal for my upcoming master's project...Coming up with some type of relevant middle school purity material.
Here is what I think about middle school purity and how to address it:
- It must be covered!
- Parents must be involved/give input-they must stay educated and we need to help them however possible
- It must be simple but relevant
- It needs to be specific, but not too detailed as to give "ideas"
I am honestly unsure how to handle it. I know living in an area that has a high population of sexually active teens that I must address it, but my parents do not want me to cover it with them. Any suggestions?
It will probably be Tuesday before I post final Austin thoughts since I've got an 11 hour drive ahead of me tomorrow, but I'll get it posted as soon as possible
See ya then!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
I started the morning out in Jim Burns session on partnering parents. Some of this was review as I have already been using some of his homewords material since last year, but some of it is new. The first bit of a paradigm shift that needs to take place is parental involvement. I have been trying to include my parents in my ministry for some time now, but according to Burns I have been giving them too much of an option to opt out. He suggested upping the quality of what we offer them and make it a bit of a requirement, just like a sport or social club would have. The fact is, every parent should be involved in some way. This will be difficult for me I think as some of my parents are the proverbial "thorn" that Paul talks about. I pray that I can find new and better ways to involve my parents and minister to them more effectively.
The second paradigm shift that is going to be difficult is the idea of changing how I do things. Roland Martinson spoke this morning about having a ministry versus a monster. The whole concept here is about not building our ministries around ourselves and the program itself so as when we leave it creates a monster for the person who comes in after us. The real shift that needs to take place is in creating God followers and not jut consumers. It isn't about the entertainment, but about the relationship with Christ.
Donald Miller reaffirmed this tonight in his message about the change that has taken place within the church over the years. What we have created is a church full of consumers who are looking for the best product out there. We (perhaps unintentionally) have turned ourselves into "Corporation Jesus" as he put it, but what we really need to become is more like a family and not a business.
Can I say that this concept is very difficult for me to grasp since I have invested a lot of time and money in becoming culture savvy and knowing how to provide a quality program that compares to what the world has to offer. All through my college experience I was told that we have to radically change the world by being culturally relevant and offering something just as good as what the world has. So am I now to have to unlearn that? It will be difficult, but I have a feeling I need to let my kids know that I have missed the boat. I have spent so much time trying to entertain them instead of showing them a radical Jesus who is calling them to a radical life change that may be uncomfortable.
So this journey may be a difficult one, but I am willing to give it a shot. I'm not going to go out and encourage my kids to become a monastic society who remove themselves from the world, but I think I have some relearning to do as it relates to understanding and embracing culture and still pointing kids to family style Jesus.
What do you think?
Until tonight...GO BUCKS and BOOMER SOONER (oops I said it)!
Speaking of trust, I am convinced now more than ever that trust is the lesson the Lord is wanting me to learn this weekend. I really feel like I have dealt with the Lord in my own heart and now it is time to simply trust Him for the outcome. Everything that was said today pointed right to that. Buster Soaries spoke about astonishing faith and how I must think of what God can do in ways that I could never imagine-meaning He may do something He has never done IF I trust Him (all things are possible with Him). God specializes in things that have never happened before...Not that I am some great person, but God can do something in the lives of my young people that I would never expect if I will just get out of the way and trust that HE can do it better than I can. Mike Pilavachi reaffirmed that tonight by talking about how Jesus did wondrous miracles, but He did through experiences-successes AND failures, and often more through the latter. He made an interesting point that stood out (actually it may just have been the way I interpreted it) when he said that if everything is going the way we want it to, we can't learn. I guess it is time that I step back and realize that maybe my failures are just ways that the Lord is trying to mold and shape me into the minister than He needs me to be.
The final thing that really got me tonight when Mike was speaking was the concept of "that youth group kid." We all know who they are, they are the one that we are praying will go to another church because they are a distraction or burden in ours. I have to admit, I have prayed that in every church I have been at. I was really convicted of that tonight and I need to apologize to some kids who I have wronged-because I should have been praying that God would use them AS THEY ARE to reach others in the kingdom. There are a few of these kids who I have pushed and challenged and confronted in ways that I shouldn't have all in the name of trying to help them become all they can be with God...What I forgot was that they are on a journey as well, and God can get their attention and use them just as they are right now.
So a lot has been happening, God has really been dealing with me. I feel like if I learn nothing else this weekend I have already learned so much, but I know that with three more days left there are more lessons to be learned.
Thanks Lord for opening my eyes and showing me what I need to work on, forgive me for forgetting how to listen and turning away to myself when I should have been turning to you. It is not about me, but about you! Help me to get out of the way and let you be the God that you are. I am not an expert, I am only a broken and willing vessel willing to be used by you. Help me to minister in spite of myself...Amen
See ya tomorrow!
Thursday, October 05, 2006
This year I am not alone at the convention, I brought Scott with me. He and his wife are my true youth sponsors, they will do anything you ask whenever needed and lift Megan and I up daily in prayer. I honestly do not know what I would do without their help, so I am glad he will have the opportunity to be fed this year as well.
I am not going to lie. I have been saying for a while that I would talk about how ministry is going, but I have been putting it off, because I wanted to put on a good front that everything was okay. Honestly for a long while I have felt like I have been dying inside, and the only thing that has kept me going in youth ministry is the encouragement that this convention brings every year,along with the occasional blessing that someone passes on to me at the least expected time. Last year was a life changing experience, but this year to me was going to be make or break. I was ready to give up. I have felt like I have been pushing and pushing without any results and have felt attacked by parents and apathy among the youth ministry students and leaders. So I really had been contemplating whether or not I was cut out for this...Or whether it was even worth it or of I was God's man or was just in God's way. There was a lot of "me" and a lot of sulking and complaining...I truly had developed a "poor me" mentality.
So with all that said, this convention has already been a wake up call. I chose to take Mark Yaconelli's critical concerns course called "Becoming the beloved-healing your identity in Christ." Obviously, the word healing stood out the most to me because I have felt broken for sometime now. I had the chance to take this last year and honestly felt like God wanted me to do the soul care option last year, but I was hesitant because that kind of stuff was just not for me, and I was coming to learn new stuff, not get away and "retreat" to grow spiritually. This year though, I couldn't get past the fact that I needed this aspect of the convention this year and I have not been disappointed. After today I already feel like God is working and showing me more of who He is, who I am through Him, and who He wants me to be.
This convention for me will be a "Sabbath." I am resting, and focusing on nothing but the Lord. I am shutting my phone off (except when I talk to my wife) and I am spending more time with him and learning who I am through me. The biggest thing that the Lord has shown me so far through this "retreat" is that it is not about me...But about Him. He doesn't need me for His work to get done. It is a blessing to me that He has chosen to use me, but He could do it without me. I think I have spent too much time making the ministry mine, and not enough making it His.
I am learning how to step aside and allow the Lord to love me. I get so caught up in what people think about me, that I miss what really matters. He has gifted me, He has made me unique and all He wants is for me to offer myself to Him to be used.
The strangest thing though, that has perhaps challenged me the most is the issue of "suffering." I have done a lot of whining to those who are close to me. I think even though I put on a pretty good mask of being all together I have not been a good example to those around me because I have been negative. Because of my hurt I was trying to hurt others and pretend that my life was so bad and that I was the victim. I was whining and wanted everyone to pat me on the back and say "it's not your fault, it's okay." What really challenged me though was the thought that suffering is a part of ministry. I do not want to put myself on a pedestal, and make myself look like I am God's chosen one, because I am not anyone special...Anyone who is in ministry suffers at some time. These recent times have just been mine and I wanted to be the victim. The interesting thought though is that maybe the Lord wants us to suffer...So He can suffer with us. This was a shocking thought for me...We're not to be the victims, but to rejoice in those times and realize that Jesus suffers with us. Look at the disciples, the closer they got to Jesus, the tougher times got. It is all about trust and surrendering it to Him. I think for too long, I have made this my ministry and not allowed it to be the Lord's. I am doing the best I can, but I need to make it His ministry. Times will be tough, but He has placed me there for a reason and in the midst of trials I need to trust Jesus and not Matt.
This convention has already been life changing to me and will be more and more everyday as I seek to draw closer to Jesus. I'll close with this...During one of the contemplative prayer times we drew a picture and colored it. My picture was of a landscape with a river running through it and a big oak on top of a hill. The river had red running through it to represent the wounds I have felt with broken relationships, harsh words, and more. The tree was barren, but with roots digging deep into the ground and some new life growing on it. There was one lone tombstone on the horizon and the sun was setting in the background. The tombstone was my "self" dying and the new growth represented the growth that has occurred and continues to occur as I try to find less of me and more of Him. I think I am at a crossroads, and am nearing a time of radical growth in my life. My only prayer is that there will be less of me and more of Him on a daily basis.
I am so glad I came...Even though at the beginning I felt like I was crawling, I now feel like I am walking with the Lord as he nurses me back to a spiritual "health" that I have missed. Times have been tough, and may remain that way for some time. BUT, the Lord is faithful, He suffers with me and I know I am not alone. Thanks YS for ministering to me and offering this convention!
More to come as the weekend goes on!
Seeking new life,
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006