Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Be a Joshua Generation!

On Monday we decorated my mommy van with some random pumpkins and headed out to South Lawn to share some chocolate joy. This is so my favorite thing to do this time of year. I love giving away candy to students, especially candy with a message so many need to hear. Each piece of chocolate is given away with this scripture stuck on top: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). This admonition to be strong and courageous is given three times in this chapter. Kind of seems like it is important.

The context of the story is that Moses has died. And God has chosen Joshua to be the one who will lead the Israelites into the promised land. This honor did not go to Moses, the one who spoke to God face to face as a friend. It went to the young guy. The apprentice. The one with no job experience. He is probably scared witless. And so the command from God Himself comes, “Be strong and courageous!” Notice it is not a request. Notice it is not a feel-good, warm fuzzy pick me. It is an admonition that shakes the earth: “Hey! You there looking around as if I’m talking to somebody else! You, be strong and courageous!” I love it!

Once again God chooses the least likely candidate to reveal His glory. I believe that young people today are the Joshua generation. I have never seen a population so intent on living the difference they most want to see made. It excites me; it humbles me. One of our students donated from their own funds to help us give away fair trade chocolate on Monday because this person very much believes in not just speaking about justice, but being a part of God’s justice. I am so proud, so thankful I get to be pastor to this individual.

I believe that the bigness of the command comes for two reasons. First, I believe it is so easy for young people to doubt their own worth, or their place in God’s plans. Let’s face it; our culture has told people to do what they want without regard for others. Often times it is the children who suffer. And as these children become young adults, they grow up with a belief that they are expendable, that their lives don’t really matter. The other reason is that never before has there been as much pressure to perform as now. Often students feel like the rest of their lives hinges on how well they perform now. They believe they don’t have time for the luxury of being still and quiet, learning to sense God’s presence with them in the noise, living as if the most important thing they can do with their time is pray and draw close to Jesus. In short, this generation has a target on its forehead.

I say that because our enemy knows what is at stake. And so does God. It is a generation that will give themselves with abandon to what they believe in. And so the spiritual battle is on to win the heart of a generation that loves, serves, and lives with everything they got. Let me just say this. God knows you have it in you to overcome every obstacle you will ever encounter. He know that with the Holy Spirit within you, you will be more than a conqueror. It thrills me to think of the promises that are just waiting to be realized because you, my Joshua generation, have decided to be strong and courageous. When you decide that going with God’s presence is the best way to change the world, the whole earth quakes. My dear ones, lets be partners with God in shaking things up a bit, shall we? So be strong and courageous; know that GOD IS WITH YOU. And wherever you go with God, the earth trembles.

This is me trusting,


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This Little Light of Mine, I'm Gonna Let It SHINE!

Two days before my second son was born I was blessed to hear Maya Angelou speak. Her visit to Bowling Green was brief and the opportunity to be a part of her public appearance was very limited. My dear friend who worked for student activities at the time arranged for several students from Wesley and myself to have tickets to her speaking engagement. The venue was a very packed Capital Arts theater. As we sat there among the other 300 something attendees, we were moved by her simple message, so eloquently delivered: “Let your light shine.” Simple but powerful. Let your light shine.

That was almost four years ago. Today I am still a campus minister at the same campus ministry. Those young and impressionable students however have since found their way into the world. It’s so cool to see how they each are living that message out in their own way. Just this past weekend I saw one of them at the Unity Fair held at the Foundry on Saturday. He now has a full-time job working as a community organizer, everyday living his passion to see justice come to life for the under-resourced and disadvantaged in our culture. It was so cool just to see that.

I know how pervasive and entrenched discouragement can be. So many times it seems like we cannot change anything, so we don’t try or we give up because we don’t see the results we want. The biggest temptation that most of us face each day is not about blatant sinning, but more in the area of directing our focus. We are tempted everyday to focus on how big the problems are, whether they are in our personal lives, our families, communities, or even the world. Our focus then magnifies the difficulty until it seems impossible, hopeless, and overwhelming. The tactic here is to keep our vision sequestered by an illusion of futility. That way the enemy doesn’t have to ever worry about whether we will ever step out for God because we have been cut down in our belief that we are even capable of making a difference at all. I believe this is the spiritual battleground where God’s initiatives are often shot down. We believe that those big problems can only be conquered through big power! And we simply feel like we don’t measure up. What’s more, because we believe we are incapable of making a difference, we make our minds up that solutions cannot exist. Sadly, God’s answers to these problems often are never discovered simply because they never even had the opportunity to even be considered!

But consider this. Often the way God works to change things is through the simple and small act of obedience, lived out faithfully over time. The song “This Little Light of Mine” is about a “little” light. Not a flood lamp. Not even a flash light. Simply a candle. Something simple and small which cuts the darkness just by being what it was meant to be. It makes a difference by lighting its wick. Giving a speech on Human Rights Day, December 10th, 1961, Peter Beneson said, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” He had been living his life as a lawyer in Great Britain when he learned of two Portuguese students who were imprisoned for simply raising their wine glasses in a toast to freedom. Beneson was moved deeply and began a campaign to gain their freedom. It is through his efforts that Amnesty International was born, a movement dedicated to preserving human rights. It’s also like the story of the man who was discovered by a young boy on the beach throwing starfish back into the ocean. The boy commented that this gentleman couldn’t possible make a difference on a beach littered with hundreds of starfish. But very deliberately the old man continued. As he picked up the next starfish and threw it back into the sea, he simply said, “Made a difference for that one!”

What is your simple, small act of obedience? I used to think that God wanted me to change the world by finding the most dynamic examples of ministry out there and becoming like them. Now I know that God only expects me to be who He made me to be, and to apply that being towards those things that move me deeply. I’m not a British lawyer, but I am a prayer warrior. I’m not a charismatic leader, but I am a funny, down to earth teacher. I’m not an administrative genius, but I am a walking heart beat that welcomes everyone in. I am quirky, weird, a bit disheveled, kind of outrageous, very un-hip, quite excitable, and somewhat enthusiastic. In all of that messy vibrancy I have experienced a quiet invitation from God’s heart to leverage what I am (NOT what I’m not) towards those things that stir me deeply. He asks me to consider what I can do, NOT what can’t be done. And here is the best part of all: When we stop focusing on what is impossible for us to (God’s part anyway), and begin to live into that simple, small act of obedience that we can do, then we have allowed room for the Bigness of God to step in and do His thing after all! Kind of like the little boy who steps up to share his sack lunch; Jesus turns it into a feast that feeds a crowd.

So STOP fixating on what cannot be done. Begin to listen for that still, small Voice (God’s Voice) that speaks within your heart. Learn to focus on the light already shining around you. Learn from those who seem to know how to live in light. Consider the light that you are, not the one you wish you could be. And in the listening and considering begin to focus on the simple, small act of obedience that God is sparking within you. Light that candle. Let that light shine. And prepare to be amazed at how small the darkness becomes.

This is me trusting,


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why are you here?

I must admit that since I have been back from Fall Break, several of you have really been on my heart and mind. Each one of you truly has a special place in my life. It is so cool and kind of amazing that after 8 plus years in this ministry, the things you go through as students still move me deeply. I count it as a God thing. I believe it is why I am where I am. God crafted my heart so that college students could find His grace there. It is a mystery that staggers me and leaves me deeply humbled. After all this time, I know why I am here. He put me here to love on you.

But I want you to ponder a more important question, especially those of you who are really wrestling and struggling right now: Why are YOU here? Really, why? You may be so distracted by the whirlwinds surrounding you and swirling within you that you may not have ever even considered the question. But consider this: Lauren, one of our leaders at Wesley very astutely says that nobody comes here by accident. She is so right. I kind of feel that campus ministries are kind of like planets. The big ones seem to have a gravitational pull that draws others in. However when you land on our planet it is precisely because you were guided here by Something bigger than yourself for a very specific purpose. You are not here by chance. God is doing something in you here that has eternal significance for your life and quite probably for lives you have yet to encounter. Now that is staggering.

I say this because the temptation is to believe that you are only what the university says you are, a random 800 number amongst 20,000 other students. You are definitely not just a random number. Or you could be tempted to believe what biology would tell you, that you are a random conglomeration of rapidly expanding cells that differentiated into various limbs and organs. You are not a random grouping of cells. Or you could be tempted to believe what philosophy would tell you, that you are a random being with an existential presence vacillating between meaningless extremes and circumstances of which you have no control. Your life is not a random happening in a meaningless universe. Here is the truth: You are precious, created with intention and delight, for a purpose that extends meaning and influence far beyond what you can comprehend. You are a person of sacred worth. And right this very minute God is working a purpose for you that is full of eternal significance, one that is full of His glory and profound in its impact.

But you have a choice. How you decide to view your life and circumstances very profoundly influences your experience of them and your response to them. As Tyler, another one of our leaders at Wesley, rightly points out, it’s all about the attitude. You can choose to believe the lie, that you are here by chance and your live has no worth or value. Or you can be courageous and live into the truth that our enemy does not want you to believe: That you are a child of worth, created in and sustained in love, specifically for a purpose that has eternal significance and meaning. I don’t take the admonition lightly. I know what it will cost some of you to live into it, to live as if it is true because you can’t yet believe it is true. I know what I’m asking is huge, but I also know the One who prompted me to ask it. I know He believes in you and wants you to experience His power in your life like you never have before. Here is the truth: He will do the powerful transforming thing; you just have to accept His invitation. Be strong and courageous dear ones. I will accept that invitation with you.

This is me trusting,


Monday, October 04, 2010

What to do when the A.F.R. has hit the fan

Today is the Monday before Fall Break begins on Thursday. And as is the case on most college campuses before break, all the professors got together and decided that the most delicious form of torture for college students would be to coordinate syllabi so that all the exams, all the projects, all the papers, all of the big-ticket assignments would come due at the same time. And of course every professor or instructor treats his or her assignment as the most important, expecting you the student to do the same. Even if you are only enrolled in basket-weaving 101, that instructor’s attitude toward that class is that it is the most vital to your entire educational career, even if you should go on to pursue a PH. D. in aero-dynamics. It’s just the culture of academia.

Returning students have learned to greet the days before Fall Break with the grim resignation to hunker down, bury themselves in the library or dorm room, and grind through each intellectual obligation until all are completed. Freshmen are more like deer caught in headlights. For a few brief moments they hyperventilate, and then, after chatting with friends, parents, and pastors, discover that the devastation can be survived. Then they too, hunker down. If you are a college student reading this, you didn’t need me to tell you that the A.F.R. (I learned this term on TV last night when a resort worker was explaining what happens when a kid poops in the pool—it’s called “accidental fecal release.” Cool huh?) has hit the fan. You are living it.

And as I was pondering A. F. R. this morning during my run, I began to wonder as my breath formed a foggy mist in front of my face if toots (passing gas, farts, tooties, whatever) would also form a lovely foggy mist in the cold air. Can you tell I hang around college students? I share this for two reasons: First I think it is hilarious! Second, when we are going through tough times we need help to get through, to persevere, to survive. Humor has always done it for me. I often tell my students that in the body of Christ I am the funny bone. My bizarre thought process on how we survive the tough times is actually related to Philippians 4:11-13, a familiar scripture that I have been pondering for the last several days:

For I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

There is a Veggie-Tales video that explores this verse. Larry the cucumber asks Bob the tomato if it means that through Christ he can be a chicken, because he always wanted to be a chicken. Well, no. It doesn’t mean that. Usually we take it to mean that we can do anything for God through the strength of Jesus Christ. And yes, that is true. We can do anything God asks us to do relying on His strength. But we usually look at this text through the lens of the American Dream, meaning that if we don’t like the situation we are in, with God’s help and our own will-power we should be able to fix it. We kinda are the “fix-it” nation. We hate to be uncomfortable, and we avoid pain at all costs. However, this is not the way of the Gospel, certainly not the way of Jesus who did not run away from the cross but chose it because he loves us and knew there could be no resurrection, ultimate defeat of sin, death, and evil, without it.

At the heart of the Gospel is the good news that Jesus transforms the bad into the good. Not by running away, but by enduring, and pushing through. Somehow the power of Jesus infused into our lives gives us the ability to do the same, to persevere and push through. And through His grace, our worst experiences can be transformed through the power of His love and resurrection into something of eternal beauty. Don’t ask me how He does it; I just know that he does. And He does it not by removing us from the difficulty but by strengthening us within the difficulty. Now don’t get me wrong; I do believe in miracles and deliverance. But I also know that God doesn’t choose to answer every difficulty we encounter in this way. What He does give us every time is the strength to be okay in the midst of A.R.F.’s and quickly whirling objects (i.e. fans). The good news is that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, God is able to sustain us while we are in them. He helps us get through them. He makes us able to praise Him on the other side. So thankful. Honestly I’d rather have the American Dream, but I’m so thankful I have His grace instead. He’s gotten me through a lot.

And so my dear ones, do not be discouraged. In a matter of days Fall Break will be here, and you will be able to rest from your basket weaving 101 adventures. Just know that the God who loves you is with you, to strengthen you and to bring good out of you and through you. And in His grace you will see your toughest trial transformed into something of eternal beauty for His glory.

This is me trusting,


Loosey Goosey Religion

I get how crazy life is. On Sunday the pastor at the church I attend was commenting on someone he met who just wasn’t into “organized religion.” His reply to the person was, “That’s okay because our church is disorganized religion.” My thought was, “he just thinks he’s seen disorganized religion. He hasn’t been to the Wesley Foundation yet.” Anyone who has been a part of our ministry at all knows just how unorganized we can get. There is some sense of organization there; it’s just all loosey-goosey. And God has been showing me that this is okay.

There is so much pressure during this segment of life to be regimented, to have a life plan, to know where you are headed with finely crafted steps lined out for getting there. And I must admit, living with intentionality is a powerful thing during the young adult years. I mean, you have within you the capacity to set the trajectory for what will follow. Being intentional is a good thing. During my university experience class as we talked of time-management I encouraged my students to harness the power of intention. I asked each of them to make a list of what is most important in their lives. Then I asked them to consider how they spend their time in any given week. My next question was to examine how much the way they spent their time reflected the important things in their lives. If there was a discrepancy, I challenged them to make changes that would incorporate their life values into their actual living.

And because I don’t think it is fair to ask my students to do something I am unwilling to do myself, I have been pondering my own ability to harness the power of intention. In fact I spent quite a bit of time wrestling with this question of my own intentions. To be honest, the experience left me unsatisfied, feeling like I was trying to fill a bottomless pit. However, in the middle of my ponderings grace gave me a different perspective. The new question that came to my spirit was this: “What are Your intentions, Lord?” This is not the same thing as, “What is Your will for my life?” Trying to find God’s will has been an integral part of my life for a long time. Rather this comes from the assumption that the things we are intentional about yield something later on. For instance, if I harness the power of intention to study hard, I will yield good grades. If I harness the power of intention to spend time with the people I love on a regular basis, the yield is better relationships. It is another way of saying that we reap what we sow (also something the pastor talked about on Sunday.) My question of God was thus one of asking what had He been sowing in me that were now yielding fruit. Also, what is He sowing now that would yield fruit later? And finally is the big one, what does all this fruit look like anyway?

When I only focus on what I can intentionally plant and harvest in my own strength, I suddenly become very tired, a bit agitated, and eventually overwhelmed. Yet when the question shifts, and I begin to sense that God has been intentional in planting things in my life all along, well, my footing becomes solid again. Often I look at a past season of life and think, “Dude! I was just trying to survive!” But when I think of that season in light of God’s intentions, or rather His intentional occupation in my circumstances, I can see that He produced something worthwhile in me the whole time I thought I was just barely holding on.

Here’s the thing of God’s grace: He intentionally shows up in the chaos of our lives and weaves His goodness into it, if we will simply let Him in and go with what He gives us. We may not understand it. We may be overwhelmed by it. We may not have any sense that it will resolve itself in any recognizable way. But the promise of Grace is that surer Hands are holding us than we ourselves have. I love that about our intentional, loving God who specifically chooses those things that confound us to show us Himself the most. So dear one, rest in His goodness, knowing that you are not responsible for ordering the universe. Indeed the One who brought forth the universe in all its glory from chaos is able or order yours. Be blessed.

This is me trusting,