Sunday, January 20, 2008

Changed Perspectives

Perspective is all about where you are in life. I found out last night that I didn't even know that my perspectives had changed. Apparently, life is confusing.

Yesterday evening, Sonia and I journeyed up to Lake Geneva, WI to visit the youth group of Evangelical Covenant Church from Lafayette, IN. This is the church I have been hired at as of Tuesday and we have already been actively involved with this youth group. We hung out with them one weekend in the Fall, then spent New Years' Eve staying up all night with 150+ kids, then went to this camp in Lake Geneva this weekend. They had been there since Friday, but I was tied down at church, so we made an appearance Saturday evening. We got to hear a speaker named Doug Pagitt from Solomon's Porch -- a church in Minneapolis, MN. He is a phenomenal speaker and I can tell that he has done some great things as a pastor of his church. He is also an author which makes it awesome because now I can read his books and know that I talked to this guy and he talked to me and he's cool.

Afterwards, we split into different groups and Sonia and I went with a group of guys from ECC (a little awkward for Sonia...). All I can say about what happened next is that it was amazing. I was speechless. Teenage boys poured out their hearts before each other...some in need of healing, some in need of answers to tough questions, some in need of help, some in need of friends, some in need of Christ. The tears came hard and fast as these young men were as transparent as glass. I can say honestly in the years I have been in ministry, I have seen few moments like this. After we all prayed for these teenagers and the smiles were on faces again, it was on to other things. As Sonia and I were walking out, it seemed like Bob (the Youth Pastor at ECC) and I were on the same page. We both knew what these camp and conference moments were like. Away from the everyday routine, it's easy to pour out your heart and "get it all of your chest." However, once camp and conferences are over, it's back to the real world and many of us lose focus of what we said or promised to do. I've done this before...Bob and I knew some of these kids would do the same. So, he asked me, "What do we do to keep them focused?" This is where I had one of the most interesting perspective changes. I blurted the first thing that came to my mind, but I genuinely meant it. I said, "Well I don't know if this is right, Bob...but I just feel like I want to hang out with these kids. You know...invest." It wasn't that Bob approved of this answer or that I needed a pat on the back. The funny thing is that a couple of years ago if someone asked me that same question, I would have said, "Let's have a nice cool event when we get back when we get them pumped up again and blah blah blah." Basically, I realized my perspective had changed from programming to investing. I think this is a huge thing in my life. I really think I finally get what Jesus was saying and doing when he hung out with people. It wasn't to make Himself look good or to invite them to the next conference. He hung out with people because He cared and He would do anything to keep from losing them. I really want to hang out with these kids and get to know them.

Isn't it funny how perspectives can change just like that? I know this change was the result of years of trials, observations, and thinking. But mostly, I felt God taught me something in that moment last night. These kids might or might not have been sincere, but they are God's children and He cares about them more than any of us ever will. I think I need to start loving them for that reason alone.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

There's Something About...

I love my hometown. Valparaiso, Indiana (or as some know it -- "vale of paradise"), is my hometown. I love everything about it. It has a small town feel, yet it has a big city feel at times. The downtown is beautiful and there are so many businesses to satisfy any need. My family's house of about 15 years and still going is 5 minutes from the thriving downtown areas, yet it is surrounded by farmlands and a beautiful and small subdivision. We have a pond (sort of...more like a swamp) in the backyard and a hill in the front that is perfect for sledding. There are old oak trees out front, maples in the back, and pine trees on the top of the hill that have been growing for years. The driveway curves around a big oak tree and causes people to avoid backing down the driveway in their cars. There is a huge school of 2 bazillion kids in town, but I got to go to a small school called Morgan Township and spent 13 years there. Yes...I went from Kindergarten to graduating senior at the same school. The entire school (K-12) had 500 kids...the high school had 200. My graduating class was 45 or so and a good majority of those were people who were there with me on my first day of Kindergarten.

I love my hometown. I used to write a column in my school newspaper called "Things You Need to Know About Valparaiso." It highlighted little known facts about Valparaiso and touched on random things that were around Valpo that might be cool to people to know. I learned a lot about that town doing this. I went to college at Valparaiso University for one year and hated the school, but I loved Valparaiso.

Plans are in motion for Sonia and I to return to Indiana in ministry. We are not going back to Valpo, but it still feels good to be going back to Indiana. I wrote a song recently that talked about missing home. One of the lines says, "There's something about...being home." It's a great feeling thinking of home. Sure there are many bad memories of home and Valparaiso, but I still love it. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. I have a dream that someday I can go back to Valpo and plant a church there. It is a great town for it. That would be awesome and I would live there forever. Of course, living that close to the parents and in-laws might be challenging, but we would take advantage of the free babysitting when we have kids. :)

I hope you have a hometown that you can call home. I know some people don't and it's sad to hear that. I really think God meant for us to find a place that we could call home. There's something about...leaving home....missing home...being home...someday.