Friday, February 27, 2015

Stanley has the Tools

There is a company called Stanley that is a manufacturer of a brand of tools used for building and fixing things.  I have known of this tool set since I was kid.  My father had some Stanley tools around the house.  Most recently I have used quite a few Stanley tools at ASP.  I have used them to work on many different project over these last 9 years. They are dependable tools that do the job, but actually they are not the most important Stanley that has been a part of ASP trips or has played a role with the youth of our church.


Greg Stanley is a math teacher at Sanderson High School and a valuable member of the St. Mark's congregation.  I met him about 3 or 4 years ago when he first decided to go on ASP with us.  I could tell then that I was going to really like working with Greg.  Greg has a way with people, a polite smile, a gentle voice, and a calming personality.  He is proficient in his knowledge of tools and construction but never downgrades or dismisses those of us who are challenged and lack construction knowledge.  He is always willing to lend a helping hand and his heart is full of a need and want to help people. 


Recently we had an All Youth Retreat where I asked two youth to speak about their journeys as part of the youth group.  I asked them to talk about all the mentors and youth that have made a difference in their lives and express what roles they have played in their lives.  I then asked each of them to talk about a relationship with an outside of youth group adult that has made an impact on who they are.  One of the youth talked about Wes Hare who I mentioned in another blog post.  The other talked about her relationship with Mr. Stanley (which is what they have to call him at school.) 


She said that she first met Mr. Stanley at ASP and that he instantly made an impact on her.  He was kind and listen to her.  Since then she often visits him at school during lunch and after school.  She said that he gives up plenty of time to listen to her and help her with some of the issues in her life including some college things that she is having a hard time with right now.  He always has a kind word, an open mind, and valuable advice.  Mr. Stanley has really made an impact on her.  She said that she couldn't imagine going through High School without him.


I don't know that the adults of our church really realize the impact they are making on our youth.  Simple things like listening and just being there for them go a long way.  Greg provides that for them and for that I am very grateful. Greg is a Stanley that has the tools to fix things and help build up our youth.


Thanks for constructing things more valuable then you will ever know Greg! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I don't have a daughter but if I did...

We are on the verge of wrapping up another girls' retreat.  This has always been one of my favorite trips because it is just a great time hanging out with all the girls of youth group and getting to know them better.  Each of them is beautiful, smart, and caring and it would be an honor and a blessing to have any of them as my daughter.  If I had a daughter though I would want her to be:


As crazy and daring as Eliza.  I have watched her come out of her shell this weekend.  When she wants to do something she does it like going in the ocean when it is cold out.  An adventurous heart is something that everyone needs.


As giggly and cute as Avery.  Avery has an infectious way of making you laugh by just simply laughing herself.  She brings a smile to my face any time I am with her and that is something that value so very much!


As kind hearted as Maryssa.  Maryssa has a loving soul and is willing to do anything or anyone.  I can always count on her help whenever there is a project that I need help with she is there with open arms to help me complete the task. 


As  family orientated as Margaret.  Margaret has a love for her family.  You can see it in her interactions with her brother and sister and her mother and father.  Their family is very close and you can see the love they have for each other.  I have watched them for such a long time and Margaret shows me that through all of her interactions with her family. 


As observant as Alex.  Alex notices every detail.  She can tell you when something is wrong or if something or someone is missing.  Although we joke about it sometimes, I admire her for it.  I am not as observant as she is and some things I observe I am not comfortable enough to share with others.


As open as Kenzie.  Kenzie is always willing to share her thoughts and feelings and participate in any discussion we are having whether in youth group or just the two of us talking.  I always know where I stand with Kenzie and that is something you don't always get in your relationships with people.


As loving as Liz.  Liz always has a hug and a smile for you.  She has a loving heart and when she cares about you you know it!  Showing affection is something that so many people have a problem with and often it leaves people wondering how you feel about them.  Liz lets you know!


As understanding as Temple.  Temple willingness to listen to people and care about them is a quality that not everyone possesses.  She will listen and comfort anyone that comes to her with a problem. You can always count on Temple to be there for you.


As beautiful as Harper.,  All the girls are beautiful but I see everyday how beautiful Harper's heart is.  She is beautiful on the outside but her love and caring of others, her willingness to share and listen to others, her willingness to serve and do mission work shows her inside beauty. 


As determined as Danielle.  Danielle, has school, work, theater, babysitting, a social life, and still makes every youth event a priority.  She has a determination which is God given because it allows her to do what she wants but not miss out on what is most important to her.


As creative as Grace.  I learned a lot about Grace's writing talents this weekend and her willingness to share those talents with us.  Creativity is a spice of life to me.  I think it is such an important part of life and Grace is full of creativity. 


As patient as Sophie.  Sophie is so patient.  She sits and listens and pays attention and always follows through on assignments I give her.  She is a valued member of our leadership team and her patience is a virtue that not everyone has.  It is such a valuable thing in life to have patience. 


We are all blessed by the children and youth of this world.  Enjoy them why you can because soon they will be the adults of this world!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Comings and Goings

This time of year is always so hard for me.  We just recently started our Confirmation class.  There are 10 kids in the class which is amazing and wonderful.  It means that we will have 8 or 9 new youth in youth group next year.  That is so exciting because I love it when we get new youth in our group.  Our youth do an amazing job of including everyone.  It really is pretty special.  That is the amazing part! 


The problem is that this time of year means that we are getting close to the end of youth group for a group of seniors. I think that one of the two hardest parts of being a Youth Director is having to let go of the youth.  When you spend 7 years loving them, caring for them, and being with them all the time, it is hard to let go.  I know it's harder on their parents because they will be sending them off to school and they will be leaving the nest but after parents, family, and coaches; myself and the mentors have probably been with them for the longest part of their formative years. 


This year is particularly hard because of the seniors that are graduating.  I have grown very close to all of them.  All of our youth are so special and so important but this senior class is really important to me.


Harper has been here since day 1.  I have watched her grow in so many ways.  It really is amazing to see her now.  I can remember the shy Harper that would never get up in front of a group and speak or be the leader.  That has changed.  Harper is a confident, beautiful, smart young woman who has blossomed in so many ways since I first met her.  She always has a smile on her face and love in her heart.  Did I mention that she always has a bow in her hair?  I know that when Harper goes out into the world she is going to take it by storm and do amazing things.  I really am proud of her and who she has become.  She was one of the first youth that I have had since she was a 6th grader.  She is co president of the youth group now and I don't know that I would of thought of her holding that position when she was in 6th grade.  Thank you for the memories Harper!


Kenzie came to youth group only a couple of years ago.  I believe her freshman year in High School.  I remember first meeting Kenzie in the hospital when she and I were both visiting Harper after her back surgery.  She was just as bubbling and excited then as she is now. Kenzie is so smart, innovative, and you can not find a harder worker than her.  My relationship with Kenzie has grown over these last couple of years and although I have been hard on her at times and pushed her to reach her potential, I know that our relationship is stronger because of it. I will always remember Kenzie as my strong willed go getter that can really dig a hole.  (She knows what that means).  You are the best Kenzie!


Danielle came to our youth group during her 7th grade year.  She really started getting involved during her 8th grade year.  There is a certain spirit about Danielle that I will miss.  It is that loving, caring, I want to fix things spirit.  She is always caring about others and wants them to be happy.  She does this over thinking about herself first.  It is pretty amazing!  There are so many adventures we have been on over the years from ASP to video shoots, to Pilgrimage.  It was been an amazing ride, thanks for buying a ticket!


Lee is a youth that made youth group a priority on her own.  One day Lee showed up to the church having walked from their house. Lee walked in joined Sunday school and by the end of the morning was singing in front of the whole church with us.  Lee because a valuable part of the youth program and has been ever since.  Lee has been through things that some of us can't even imagine.  Life has been hard for Lee.  That is why I will always remember Lee for Lee's inside strength.  The strength that keeps Lee going from one day to the next.  It's a strength that many of us wish we had.  I admire that.  I wish I was that strong.  Thank you for the constant reminder that strength and faith can get us through anything.


Ben is not as active in youth group this year as he has been in the past.  It is a little hard because I feel like he is already gone but I will never forget Ben.  Ben grew up in our youth group in a lot of ways.  The Ben that started as a 6th grader with that boyish grin and those random comments has transformed into this handsome, strong, football player.  One of my favorite things was when Ben and I would play Call of Duty and talk to each other over our headsets.  I felt that really helped our relationship to grow.  We are both not the gamers we used to be but that doesn't mean that we don't still talk about it now and then.  Be good Benny, be good!


I know that we still have a couple of months left but it will be hard to write or say any of this when that time comes so I thought I would write some of it today.  We are going on our last Girls' retreat with those senior girls today.  It will be a lot of fun but a sad reminder that the end is near.


I don't know where life will take each of them I just hope that they remember the good times we had in youth group, that God loves them so much, and that they should all know how to write a dissertation on world peace. I just want you to go out into the world and be the best Lee, Harper, Danielle, Kenzie and Ben that you can be.


Where do I want you to go in life?


How about the second star to the right... and straight on 'til morning...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Haunted by an image



At our youth retreat the other weekend I saw something that really touched my heart and has stayed with me every since.  On Saturday night we set up a prayer station situation in which the youth could go from station to station and participate through prayer and other activities.  It is an untimed event so that the youth can share, cry, and experience everything they need too.  God is with us in that session and they feel him.  This session took 3 hours on Saturday night.


There were so many things about that night that really touched me and showed me that our youth feel God and need God in their lives.  One thing brought me to tears that evening. There was a seventh grader that sat at the foot of our candle cross and prayed.  She would come and go but always ended up there crying.  Many youth and mentors came to her, prayed with her, and loved on her.  It was very sweet.


There was however a young man, a ninth grader, a high schooler, that came and sat down next to this middle schooler and put his arm around her.  Now I have never seen these two interact with each other or even talk to each other.  I have tried very hard to picture a time when I have seen them interact and I just can't find one in my memory bank which makes this even more meaningful to me. 


That high school boy put his arm around her and pulled her close. He whispered in her ear.  I don't know what he said nor do I want to but to me that would of been enough.  To see a two youth that don't interact with each other sitting at the foot of the cross, one crying and the other comforting was an amazing sight.


Then there was the part that brought me to tears and made me feel God's presence there in that room at the Training Lodge at Durant Park in Raleigh NC.  The high schooler held the middle school close with one arm around her and then he leaned in and very gently kissed her on the top of the head.  It was a sweet, loving, intimate moment.


I felt God through that act of kindness and love.  We have amazing youth at our church who love and care about each other.  Although they might not always talk to each other or interact with each other they are there for each other and closer to each other than I could ever imagine.


Thank you God!

Friday, February 6, 2015

I wish I had more Hare



When we were kids my dad was going bald. My brother gave him such a hard time about it all the time.  My dad always said to him "just wait until you are older and you are bald, you are never going to hear the end of it!"  I always stayed out of the conversation.  I didn't want to jinx myself.  Well,  my brother went bald first but my lack of playful banter as a child didn't help because I quickly followed suit.  I have a very good friend who has stated a couple of times that she would buy me some Rogaine.  I keep waiting for some in my stocking at Christmas.


I am actually okay with the thinning of my hair. When I say I wish I had more Hare, I'm not talking about my head.  I am talking about my good friend Wes Hare.  Wes is an amazing man with a heart of gold and a spirit of giving.  Wes is always helping people, driving the food truck for North Raleigh Ministries, running our Spiritual Awakenings, which is an AA series of meetings on the 2nd Saturday of the month, he helped to start our Soup on Sunday program at the church which provides a free meal on the 1st Sunday of the month for anyone that would like it,  he helps people at the Healing place get on their feet, he has helped youth within the church whenever they have needed help, he has played / coached in our joyful noise basketball league, he is a big brother for a young man that is in the 5th grade, he helped to start our covenant group, he plays a huge role in the ALS foundation, and so much more.  


On top of all that he is a loving husband and father that takes such good care of his daughter and gives her every experience he possibly can.  He is a loving friend that is always there to listen and give people experiences that they might not get otherwise.  Most of that is done through his gracious giving of tickets to sporting events as well as other events. 


Wes has never met a stranger.  He takes time to get to know people and everywhere I have even been with him he knows people and they know him.  Wes will always take the time to talk to you and listen no matter what he is doing.  He is a wonderful, spiritual, loving person that I am blessed to call my friend.  Life is better with him in it! 


There are people in our lives that we can tangibly see make a difference in the world.  Wes is very humbly about what he does but his footprints came be seen all over the Raleigh area making a difference.


So you may have long flowing locks of hair, or a military style hair cut but no matter who we are, we could all use a little more Hare. We should all be a little more like Wes Hare.

Friday, January 16, 2015

People Change



People Change.




 People change because we grow older.  They physically change, mentally change, as well as emotionally change.



Most of the time this is ok because we change right along with the people that we are close too.  Most of the time when you are close to someone no matter what changes in their lives you still have a connection that keeps you together because you care so much about each other.




I think the unfortunate thing is that sometimes people change because of their decisions and priorities in life.  When this happens they can make decisions that push them away from you.  This can be very hurtful because you love that person and only want the best for them yet they push you away or change their behavior to where you are no longer an important part of their life.




I was listening to NPR in the car yesterday and I heard a gentleman talking about his life.  He said that for a period of time in his life he would ignore the people that loved him and wanted to be in relationship with him and spend all of his time trying to impress people that didn't care about him no matter what he did to get their attention. 




I think that is true about all of us.  Sometimes we don't think about what we are doing or saying and we tend to push away someone that cares about us because that relationship is boring and comfortable instead of challenging and exciting.
 


It truly is a shame when that happens because when people love us they only want the best for us and it gets comfortable because they are always around. They are too many bad things in this world that look shiny, new, and exciting.  When we allow ourselves to make those things our priority we lose touch with the people that truly are our friends and love us. 




I miss some of my friends that I have lost touch with over the years as people have changed especially those that I have been very close to.


We live in a crazy world.  A world full of many different relationships and opportunities, its up to us to hang on to those that are close to us and love us.  Although there will be many people that like us throughout our lives there will be a smaller amount of people that truly love us.  Keep those people close.


Remember that God loves us unconditionally and no matter what we do he will never leave us even if we change and turn from him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ghosts... Past... Present... Future...

It's Christmas time!


The most famous fictional Christmas story by far is A Christmas Carol.  There are so many adaptations of the story even the Muppets and Disney characters have been involved in Christmas Carol projects.  The story has stood the test of time and the message is loud and clear about not only how we should act during the Christmas season but how we should live our lives all year long.  It is a great message that everyone needs to learn.


As the story goes, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by 4 ghosts on Christmas Eve.  He is visited by his old partner in business Jacob Marley, as well as the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.  By witnessing things from his past, present, and future, Scrooge sees the mistakes he has made and what the future will hold for his life if he doesn't make changes.  Luckily Scrooge sees the light and is able to turn things around and become a better person. 


I believe that just like Scrooge we are visited by ghosts.  Ours are a little different but in some ways exactly the same.  Our ghosts of the past come in the forms of memories, and thoughts that help to mold and shape who we are.  Our ghosts of the past are the mistakes that we have made throughout life.  I think we all look back at times and remember things that we said and did that impacted people and ourselves in negative ways. We think about times that people treated us badly and hurt us.  We are able to look back on these ghosts and make positive changes and decisions in our present time based on what our ghost of the past shows us.  We can think about those things and make sure that we don't make the same mistakes twice.   We can be affected by our ghosts of the past just like Scrooge was.


Our ghosts of the present are those times when we pine over decisions we have made or things that we have said that adversely affected us or others.  We may have hurt someone by putting them down or yelling at them.  We may have skipped an important meeting or event and know that we made a mistake by doing so.  These ghosts of the present haunt us and often cause us to have angst, lose sleep, or can even make us physically ill. These ghosts of the present help us to realize mistakes as they happen and allow us to make changes.


Our ghosts of the future are also known as the goals that we set.  No one knows the future and we can't predict what exactly will happen but we can set goals and expectations of what we want to do with our lives.  We have to have drive and ambition in life.  We get that drive, passion, and ambition from our ghost of the future.  The help us to form what we will look like tomorrow, five years from now, twenty years from now, and for the rest of our lives.  Without our ghost of the future helping us along the way we do not have direction.


Scrooge's ghosts were specters that we could physically see in the story. They helped to show Scrooge why he acted the way he acts and what changes he needed to make and could make to be a better man.  I hope that your ghosts help to guide you throughout life.  I hope that you realize that they are here to help and are not something to be scared of even if they show us that we have done something bad or wrong in our past or in our present.  These ghosts make us who we are and it is up to us to learn from them.


I hope you have a great holiday season and when you see A Christmas Carol on TV or DVD this Christmas just remember what I said about your ghosts and try to use all three to become a better person. 


As tiny Tim so eloquently stated:  "God bless us, everyone!"


Merry Christmas!