Sunday, July 21, 2013

Salas not Salsa

Since I have been the Director of Youth Ministries for St. Mark's UMC there has been one person who has been with me since the very beginning of my journey.  Julia has been a mentor and a dear friend of mine since I started here.  She has always had my back and been there when I needed her no matter what situation or problem I was having.  I love her very much and am so thankful for her.

Yesterday we got to celebrate her son Rudy's wedding to a beautiful young lady named Emma.  They are perfect for each other and yesterday was so wonderful.  Rudy was in college when I got here to St. Mark's but he was around and helped out when he could.  He definitely helped me get through all those basketball seasons.  He is a gentleman that is full of energy and if you know him, you know what I am talking about. 

I recall one specific time that I spent with Rudy.  Rudy asked me if I could meet him for breakfast at Denny's and have a discussion about a girl he was seeing at the time.  We had a long discussion and it was obvious that he did not see a future for the relationship.  It was hard on him because he is such a caring and loving person and he didn't want to hurt her.  It just shows you what kind of man he is.  During that discuss I remember a man from another table piping in on our conversation and giving his advice.  He stated that after listening to us for awhile that he should really find someone that he loved deeply and would be his best friend for the rest of his life.  The man mad a lot of sense as he talked with us from his table next to ours.  He gave us both something to think about.  I think it helped Rudy to realize that his relationship was not going to last and that he would find someone else that fit what he needed. Rudy found that person in Emma which was evident last night.

Last year, Big Rudy as we call him or Julia's husband had a brain aneurism and almost died.  He was in the hospital for a long time.  I would go and sit with Julia when I could and just try to support her.  It was hard because you could see she was in pain.  I can't even imagine how much pain she was in.  Rudy pulled through in a major way and has made a full recovery.

You never know how people impact your life until you have the chance to watch them laugh or watch them cry.  You never know what they mean to you until you are hugging them close or watching them walk down together hand in hand as man and wife for the first time as a tear rolls down your check.  You never know how much you love them until they come up behind you, looking as beautiful as a mother of a groom can look, hug you and kiss you on the head.

Thank you Salas family for the love, joy, and support that you have brought to me throughout the last eight years of my life.  I look forward to many more! 

Oh by the way it is a good thing my all the single ladies dance was not on tape! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

It's a Small World After all

I recently started to post more of my baseball / basketball collection on Ebay.  Speaking of which if you are looking for any particular cards let me know!  Anyway, last night I got an email from someone about a set I had put up for sale the other day.  He lives in the Raleigh area and was interested in meeting if he won the auction because that would save on shipping.  I took a look at his ebay account and saw that he has bought over 1000 items on ebay so I felt pretty secure in meeting him to complete the transaction if he won.

I wrote him and email and told him that was fine and that I had more in a collection if he was interested in looking at it.  He wrote me back and said that that would be great.  He then went on to describe himself because he said he wanted me to feel safe in meeting him. 

It turns out that he is a Pastor of a Baptist church in Garner.  He had worked in Youth Ministry for over 14 years before he became a pastor.  He recently had a book published and next week he was headed on a trip to a Baptist camp with the youth group. 

It was so awesome, this conversation that we had, back and forth for over an hour.  We just shared with each other about our journeys and where they had led us.  When he was a youth he was Methodist and had been to Camp Don Lee many times. 

In the last email I got from him he stated that this email conversation made his day! 

It just goes to show you that God is in all things including an auction site on the internet called ebay!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Release the Dove

Has anyone been asked to make an ark?  Because if you have I believe it and will gladly help you build it.  It has rained so much this summer that one could think that the great flood was coming again.  Last week we were at ASP (Appalachia Service Project) helping to make homes safer, warmer, and drier.  It was a long week with off and on rain throughout.

One day it rained so hard and the sun was still shining that one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen lit up the sky.  It was awesome and a story for another blog entry because this one is about our trip home from ASP.

As we were headed back to Raleigh, from about Winston Salem on, it rained.  I mean in places it poured down rain.  It was raining so hard a times that it was hard to see where we were going.  I was really hoping that it would slow down as we got closer to Raleigh because I was thinking about how we were going to unload the van. As we closed in on Raleigh and passed the PNC arena, the rain was coming down in sheets. 

I started to devise a plan about pulling each van up under the drive under area in front of the preschool and unloading there.  Then parents could drive up and pick each youth up individually.   I told my van to start cleaning up so we could be quick when we got to the church. 

As we pulled onto 440 and passed Crabtree mall, the rain was still coming down hard.  I said a quick prayer as we were going closer to our exit.  I asked God if he could stop the rain at least long enough for us to unpack the vans from our mission trip. It was still raining hard until I pulled onto Six Forks Road.

The minute I turned onto Six Forks, the hard rain stopped and only a drizzle remained.  As I got closer to the church the rain slowly started to end.  When we pulled into the parking lot the rain had completely stopped.

We were able to unload all the vans without a drop of water falling on us.  I looked up at one point as I was moving stuff from a van and the sky which had been filled with clouds all day long was blue above me and the sun was peaking out from behind a cloud. 

I think that was what it must of been like for Noah when the dove that he released came back to him with an olive branch showing him that there was dry land and that the water had gone down.  I didn't release a dove and I didn't build an ark but God was watching over us when we returned from our mission trip. It is truly amazing what God can do...

Oh, just a FYI it started raining again an hour after we unloaded...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday...

Sometimes we don't really realize how much we miss someone until they are gone.  Especially if that person wasn't really a close friend, like someone you hang out with on the weekends or after work. You really enjoyed their company but didn't seek it out outside of a work or church situation but for some reason, their absence really hits you.

There has been one person that always would come down to this very green basement office of mine to see me or ask me questions.  She would start off with whatever "business" we would need to discuss but often follow that up with regular conversation and genuine concerns with how I was doing or what was going on in my life.  We would end up joking about things for awhile before she would take that long walk back up to the office area upstairs. 

She always had an open door policy and would stop whatever she was doing to have a conversation with you. You could tell she truly cared and wanted to hear what you had to say.  I am a very reserved person (don't tell my youth that), but she made it easy to open up and have an honest discussion. 

When she was behind the pulpit she brought an energy that was different and unique to her.  It always felt warm and comfortable yet delivered a powerful message.  It was always enlightening and eye opening to hear her preach.

I must say that the staff here is awesome and I wouldn't trade it for the world.  Our new associate pastor can also bring it from the pulpit as well as on the basketball court. 

I just want her to know that she is missed and that I am thankful for her time, talent, and gifts that she brings with her wherever she goes but for definitely bringing them to St. Mark's. 

Thanks Tawny, you are missed :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

St. Mark's Unplugged

What did we ever do without our cell phones?  I mean seriously.  Calling, texting, MP3 playing, surfing the Internet, GPS, video chatting, and playing games are all things that we can do at any time thanks to our cell phones.  We are able to interact at the touch of a button at anytime and anywhere. 

Youth specifically are horrible about having their cell phones out and instead of being in the moment with the people around them, they are involved with people on the other end of their cell phones.  It is quite distracting and disheartening when you are trying to build a relationship with them.  I noticed how bad it was a couple of years ago so I invoked the NO CELL PHONE ON TRIPS rule.

That's right, I am the tyrant that has said that youth are not allowed to have their cell phones on youth trips.  You know what?  No youth has come to bodily harm or their worlds collapse around them because of this rule.  In fact it has been amazing to watch our youth interact and their relationships grow with each other because of the rule.

Our youth themselves have stated how annoying it is to watch other youth use their cell phones and listen to music when we are at Pilgrimage.  I have even have youth thank me for not allowing them to bring their cell phones.

I really saw the difference in relationships last week on ASP.  The other groups had their cell phones out all the time.  They also had portable DVD players out and were watching movies in the hallway.  They were so disconnected from the experience.  They weren't in the moment and hanging out and building relationships.  Instead of being unplugged they were plugged in.  It was something that I noticed quite often throughout the week.

I am thankful that our youth for the most part live into the rule.  Yes we have youth slip up now and again but for the most part they don't allow them to take over their experiences.  They allow themselves the opportunity to be in the moment.

I challenge you and me to both be unplugged for a day.  I know that your cell phone might be the only phone you have, so don't use it for anything else besides phone calls and urgent text messages.  Let it be and see where the world takes you for the day.

 Let yourself be in the moment and see where God takes you! 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Salt of the Earth: Part 6: Keep People Afloat

I suggest that you try this science experiment some time.  All you need are two glasses and two eggs.  Fill both glasses with water.  In one of the glasses add salt and mix. After you have mixed the salt in, take the eggs and drop one of them in each of glasses.  You will see that in the glass with no salt the egg will sink to the bottom.  In the glass with salt you will see the egg float to the top.

Why do you think this happens?  Overall an egg has more density than water therefore it sinks to the bottom of the glass.  However when you add the salt to the water it changes the water's density.  It makes it greater than the egg therefore the egg floats.

Ok you can do a lot of research on density and the science behind it.  Hopefully it will help you win a science fair but for the purpose of this blog we have established the point that we need which is that salt helps to make things float.

That is what we need to do as the salt of the earth.  We need to help keep people afloat.  There are so many things in this world that will drag people down.  So many things that are wrong in people's lives that cause them stress and pain.  Often when they let these bad things in their lives take over they start to sink.

When we act as the salt of the earth we can lift people up.  We can listen to them and talk with them.  We can hug them and hold them.  We can be there to support them.  We can keep them afloat by being there for them.

Being there for people is the common thread through all six of the parts that we have talked about.  Relationship building and heavy lifting are essential parts of being the salt of the earth.  Without that basis no matter which of the six parts we are trying to live into, we will fail.  Our relationships with people and with God are what keeps us afloat in times of trouble and pain. 

Let's go out into the world and be salty!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Salt of the Earth: Part 5: No Substitutes

Although salt bring great taste to food, it does have some harsh affects on the body.  Salt can lead to hypertension which is a raise in the blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks.  Salt can lead to osteoporosis which is a condition that causes weakening of the bones.  Salt also can produce stomach acid when used in excess.  This can lead to problems in the stomach including stomach cancer.  For all these reasons people have to reduce the amount of salt they take in as well as look for alternatives or substitutes for salt.  This leads to other spices and even literal salt substitutes being used in place of salt.

Although this is good for the body and for people's diets, being a substitute is not good when it comes to being the salt of the earth.  In fact God accepts no substitutes.  He wants you to be the saltiest Christian that you can possibly be.  For all the reasons that we have mentioned so far in these blog posts, God wants you to go out into the world and be the salt of the earth.  He wants you to be as salty as you possibly can be.

He doesn't want you to be a salt substitute.  He doesn't want you to be the salt of the earth when it is convenient for you.  He doesn't want you to sort of help people or act like you are doing more than you actually are.  He doesn't want you to half heartily do anything in his name. 

He wants you to be a full out, salt covered, heart attack waiting to happen Christian.  He wants you to go forth into this world and show others his love.  He wants you to help melt people's problems away, add flavor to their lives, he wants you to preserve people, and he wants you to  make people thirsty for him.

DO NOT accept substitutes when it comes to your faith. 

Be salty my friends!