Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Youth and Self Esteem

I have come to realize over my many years of working with youth that a lot of kids have very low self esteem.  It is a little surprising because when I was a teenager I don't remember my friends having low self esteem.  Sure we all have moments of insecurity but nothing like I see these days.

I think a lot of it has to do with the information age that we live in these days.  There are too many opportunities for youth to question how they look or act based on what they see on the internet.  I only had to worry about what was going on in my local community not in Hollywood or the world for that matter.  We didn't really read the paper or listen to public radio so we really didn't get a lot of outside information.  Our world was our friends, our family, our school, and our neighborhood.

Don't get me wrong, I love the internet.  There are so many things that are your finger tips.  There are so many opportunities for people to share life changing experiences, keep in touch with people you might not normally see, and do research on any topic what so ever.  I might of gotten a better grade in AP European History if the internet had been around. 

Of course school and friends play a role in our insecurities.  There are always going to be bullies who hurt kids.  I think the biggest lie in the world is sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.  What a huge lie that is.  Words hurt more than anything!  As an adult words still hurt me.  I can have 30 people tell me I did a great job on something but that one person that comes along and says something negative will ruin it for me.  I will concentrate on that one negative comment and forget all about the great and wonderful things people say.

Youth of today, please hear me when I say that you are beautifully made.  You are made in God's image and that is perfect.  We all have flaws and imperfections but you are the perfect you in this world, and since you are perfect, the world is perfect.  Always be you because there is no one else like you. Do not listen to the mean things people say because most of the time they say things because they are hurting inside themselves or wishing that they were as put together as you are.  Celebrate you when things go well or you do something good.  Invite the light of the world to surround you.  Do not shrink so that other people won't feel insecure around you.  Let your light shine.

You are a child of God, go be the light that this world needs!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Goodbye 2016!!!!

So 2016 is finally over!!  2016 was a very gut wrenching year.  We lost so many people in 2016, from movie actors to some people that were very big parts of my life.  Here is a look back at some of the people and things that were important to me that we lost in 2016:

Alan Rickman-  He is best known for playing Snape in the Harry Potter franchise but I fondly remember him when I was a kid as the Sherriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner and Christian Slater.  I also loved him in Galaxy Quest, Die Hard, and of course all the Harry Potter movies.  I will definitely miss seeing him on the big screen!

Prince-  I bought Prince's greatest hits album on CD, that's those discs that have music on them for the kids that don't know, back in college.  I loved listening to it and it was always in my car when I was driving around Asheville.  He was by far my favorite artist in college.

Florence Henderson- I of course watched all the episodes of the Brady Bunch show as a kid.  Between that, Gilligan's Island, and Dukes of Hazard my days were chalked full of amazing TV shows.

There were a ton of other celebrities that we lost last year including, David Bowe, Alan Thicke, Doris Roberts, Carrie Fisher, Mohamed Ali, Abe Vigoda, Arnold Palmer, and Gene Wilder just to name a few. 

There were three personal loses that hit hard in 2016:

Bill "Billy Z" Zeiss- Bill was an amazing man with a heart of gold.  I still kind of get that feeling sometimes that he might just pop in to see me like he did whenever he was at the church.  He always had a smile and  story to tell.  I miss his advice on where I should go to eat, how to work the sound equipment here at the church,  or my favorite memories of him, sitting and talking to him on a May afternoon at the Durham Bulls Ballpark as we took in the sights, sounds, and smells of another afternoon game.  I'm having nachos at the first Day game to honor you my buddy! He may be gone but he will never be forgotten.  His giving nature and want to help as many people as possible make Billy more important to me than anyone of the celebrities listed above!  I hope it's going big up there buddy!!!

Jean Hagman-  My Grandma Hagman died this past year.  She was the last of Grandparents which in a way made me realize just how old I have gotten.  She hadn't been doing well lately and it was definitely a blessing for her to be able to move on to see my Grandpa again.  I will miss her way too sweet apple sauce, Sausage and egg biscuits on morning they would visit, that house in Lutherville that will always be Grandma and Grandpa's House!

The last thing that I lost in 2016 was a relationship with someone that was really important to me.  The person was making a lot of changes in their life and one of those was making me less and less involved in it which was hard for me because they were still so important to me.  It will be a hard thing to move on from but it is best for both of us if we do!

So there you have it, the bad things that happened in 2016.  I sure there will be things that happen in 2017 but I feel good about this year, and I am making strides already for it to be a great year!  One of those things is to get back to blogging which was always fun and helped a lot to get through everyday life! 

Together we can make this a great year!  Welcome 2017!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Feed the 5000

Thank you for helping to feed kids in our local community!  Here is a list of the items that go into the backpacks!

What goes in a Backpack?

Packages of shelf stable milk:  These need to be milk that can last on a shelf and doesn't have to be refrigerated.

Cans of meats / beans:  Canned Tuna, Chickens, meats, canned beans of all kinds, etc.

Cans of fruit:  Any and all canned fruit

Cans of vegetables:   Green beans, corn, tomatoes, mixed vegetables, etc.

Breakfast items: Small boxes of cereal, oatmeal packets, breakfast bars, etc.

Packages of noodles: Ramen Noodles, cup of noodles, Spaghetti O's, etc.

Healthy snack items: Granola Bars, raisins, fruit snacks, etc.

100% Juice boxes:  Needs to be 100% juice but any kind



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Don't Look Back!

I find it hard not to live in the past sometimes...

I can find myself thinking about the good old days in college, when I was really pretty care free.  I remember playing soccer for all those years when I was younger and could run up and down the soccer field without getting winded.  I reminiscence about all the camping and backpacking I did when I went to UNC Asheville.  I miss being outdoors! I miss going to the beach for a week with my family and eating as much of the banana nut sheet cake from Sara Lee as I could!  I can taste the frosting as I sit here and write this. 

Those are great memories, but I also remember a lot of things that I wish I could change.  I wish that I would of known in college that I was good at working with young people.  I would of gotten an education degree or gone to divinity school. My failed marriage is sometimes a burden to look back on because it reminds me of how unhappy I was for such a long time.  All the fights will my brother over the years that were probably pretty normal for kids our ages but I often wish we were closer.  I wish I knew now just how much of an impact my Grandpa Swanson was having on my life.  I would of worked harder to foster that relationship. 

I believe the hardest part of the past are relationships that I have lost over the years.  My friends from High School, my college fraternity brothers,  my YMCA kids, even youth that graduated and left our program here at the church.

There are two things in my life right now that  have been making me think a lot about the past.  The first is that I just recently lost my Grandmother.  All though I hadn't had a close relationship with her for a long time, I loved her and she was the last of my Grandparents. I have been reminiscing a lot about her and just life in general as I start to work on her funeral service. 

The other thing is that I have a good friend that I have been really close to for a long time.  Lately I have noticed that I am not needed as much as I once was, that I have taken a lesser role in their life than I did in the past.  Others have come along and taken my place where I once was needed and wanted.  I get it because it is time for that friend to grow and flourish and go out into the world and make it their own, but at the same time I am holding on to the past and the relationship that we had instead of growing and evolving into this new dynamic of our relationship.   

Our pasts are important.  I don't want to change my past, I love who I am and where I am in the world today.  I love my job, all of MY kids, my friends, my family, my wife, and myself. 

Living in the past can be dangerous because we want things to remain the same or we just relive painful memories over and over again.  We are all molded by the winds of time. Some of that time is in past but  the most important times are now and in the future.  We have to embrace where we are in the world today and not allow our pasts to dictate who we are or who we are going to be..

Remember the past, plan for the future, live in the now! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Out on a Limb

Don't you sometimes feel like you are sitting out on the limb of a tree?  Sometimes that limb seems strong while other times it feels like a strong breeze would snap the limb right out from underneath you and send you tumbling. 

Each of us have problems that we face. It may be something that is happening at your job or an unexpected turn in your career.  It may be an issue at home or with your extended family.  It may be with friends, like having to determine whether or not a friendship with someone is worth your time and energy.  Money and debt are common denominations in a lot of people's problems. This world can be difficult to live in especially with everything gong on around us and all the hate that seems to make the headlines these days.

These problems and stresses make our limb feel brittle and weak.  We think we are going to fall at any moment in time. Our limb might break and we will fall only to barely catch ourselves on a lower branch that is even weaker than the one we started on.

If we trust in God we know that our limb will never break.  It may bend, it my sway in the breezes of life, but it will never break.  With God our tree of life is rooted strong and deep.  Every branch and every leaf thrive.  The world can not shake us out of our trees.

So stop for a moment.  Sit up on our limb.  Take a look at the world around you.  Enjoy the people, places, and things around you.  Feel the breeze on your face and the sunlight on your hands.  Reach up and pick fruit from your tree because all of our trees bear fruit.  Fruit of the spirit. 

We need to trust in God that no matter what stresses us, what hurts us, what makes us feel like we are going to fall is never as powerful as the love of the Lord. 

May the Lord bless you and keep you and may he make his face to shine upon you and wrap you in love.  May your tree continue to grow because of his love.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

8 feet closer to heaven

On the last day of ASP this year I spent the majority of it up a ladder 8 feet off the ground.  I was putting up siding on our house as our youth measured, cut, and passed up pieces of siding to me... 

This year we worked at an amazing house that had youth of all ages living there.  They were such wonderful Christ-filled people.  Their kids ranged from 11 years old to 18 and there were at least 11 of them.

I know that our youth were a little hesitant about being at a site with kids their own age because they thought everyone would be shy and awkward. This was not the case by the end of the week.  People didn't want to say good bye or leave.  Hugs, handshakes, and love was spread to each and every one of us. 

I got to witness this first hand from the top of my ladder.  I was frustrated, tired, and hot as I was putting up a piece of siding that just would not fit.  I stopped for just a moment and that was when I heard the laughter and chatter that was going on below me.  All of our youth were sitting with the youth of the family and they were having a great time talking about things that are important to youth.  Marvel vs. DC, boys, girls, TV shows, movies, Pok√©mon Go, the state of the world, God, and so many other things.  If I had closed my eyes I would of thought we were all just sitting together in the youth room here at church and I was listening to the youth group hang out and have a good time.

Instead I was on a ladder, against a house, in the middle of July, in Tennessee, with a family that we had just met a week ago.  It was amazing, it was wonderful, it was heaven.

People are people, kids are kids, it doesn't matter who they are, where they are in life, or what their background is.  They have the same loves, the same passions, the same wants, the same needs.  I have always known this but it helps to have it reinforced sometimes. 

God is love, love is God, love your neighbor as yourself, love your family because who knows what tomorrow might bring!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The World Needs a Superhero...

Not one who wears tights or spandex.
Not one that hides behind a suit made of iron.
Not one who can fly.
Not one who can shrink down to the size of an ant.
Not one who is green or blue.
Not one with a superiority complex.
Not one with rage or anger in their heart.
Not one who bought their powers and abilities.
Not one that has an origin story based on being exposed to chemicals or bitten by a spider.
Not one who carries a hammer, a sword, or a shield.
Not one who fights their enemies with violence.
Not one who hurts others while accomplishing their goals.
Not one who is handsome or beautiful.
Not one who has bulging muscles.
Not one with super strength or super speed.
Not one who can breath under water.
Not one who can regenerate when they get hurt.
Not one with god like abilities.

But one who teaches and preaches unconditional, relentless, unyielding love.
But one who doesn't need a flashy costume.
But one who performs miracles and saves people.
But one who tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
But one who says do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But one who walks on water to calm the seas.
But one who heals the sick, feeds the poor, and forgives the unforgiveable.
But one who is a teacher, a preacher, a friend, a savior.
But one who puts on the full armor of God.
But one who casts out the demons that lie within our hearts.
But one who leads us like a shepherd leads his flock.
But one who is the alpha and the omega.
But one who gave his lives for all of the sins of the world.  No matter what they are, what you have done, or who you are.
But one who is the light of world.
But one who is our savior.
But one who shed his blood and had his body broken so that we can live in the world today.
But one who never gives up on you, never surrenders hope, who needs and wants you.

This world doesn't need another imaginary superhero. 

This world needs Jesus.